The Mohammed bin Rashid (MBR) Library is slated to be the largest library in the Arab World that will house more than 4.5 million printed, audio and e-books, when completed. The library is alongside Dubai Creek in the Al Jaddaf area.
The book-shaped library will be considered a significant addition to Dubai’s list of iconic buildings. The building boasts eight specialised libraries for children, youth, family, multimedia, business, Arabic, international, and popular collection, along with conference and study rooms, exhibition areas, a 544-seat auditorium, a café, and parking spaces. The main structure will consist of a basement, ground floor, and seven stories, including a central warehouse for books.
Most of the physical books will be converted to electronic versions. The library will also be digitally linked with global libraries to share and retrieve information.
A bird’s-eye view of the project will reveal the shape of a book, which is in fact ‘the Rehl’, a traditional lectern that carries books, more specifically the Holy Koran.
Explaining the building structure, Joseph Lobo, director projects and switch gear division, Al Shafar United, says: “The structure has been built in such a way that there is concrete structure from the basement to third floor level. An external elevation that was done from the fourth to the seventh floor using steel to provide the ‘book shape’, which was very challenging and successfully executed. Every floor in itself is a different project. The night view of the library will be quite spectacular when seen from Festival City.”
In a late 2017 interview, Sameh Samy, project director at ASGC, told Construction Week that the steel structure, which is approximately 5,700 tonnes, is prefabricated.
Commenting on the MEP systems used in the building, Lobo, says: “We have many MEP systems in this project. More specifically, extra-low voltage (ELV), security, audio-visual, and video conferencing systems.”
The theme for each and every storey is different, says Lobo. The audio-visual sound system is different from one library to the other. He adds: “This project is distributed into several parts. In addition, there is more focus on the digital library system. We have mainly worked on all the ELV systems and digital library systems. Under ELV systems, we have building management system, CCTV, access control, and audio visual.”
Once the library is ready, a subscriber can access the MBR library online and can reserve their books. Lobo adds: “By the time the subscriber reaches the library, the book will be ready on their desk, where they want it to be.”
Lobo reveals that the target for completing the MBR library is the end of 2018. The $272.3m (AED1bn) project was unveiled in February 2017 by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in support of President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s declaration of 2016 as the Year of Reading. The construction of the library commenced in October 2016, with ASGC, the parent company of ASU, winning the main contract. Lobo says that around 60% of the MEP work is done.
As the building is targeting to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, Lobo says that the project had to be redesigned in its use of airconditioning chillers. He says: “In order to attain LEED Platinum, the project has been redesigned from air-cooled chillers to water-cooled chillers. At the same time, for the lighting design, particularly in external lighting, the landscape lights have to be in compliance with the green building norms, which can help in achieving the Platinum score.” Water-cooled chiller systems have a cooling tower, thus they have higher efficiency than air-cooled chillers.
The total connected DEWA power [to the library] is 10MW. In addition, there will be a solar energy generating system within the building. He says: “As part of the LEED building criteria, 10% of the total electricity has to be locally generated and consumed, which is equivalent to 1MW. So, the solar panels are placed on the roof of the library as well as above the parking lot.”
But can’t the entire power for the building be generated just from solar? To which Lobo says that more area is needed. He says: “The total connected load is 10MW, if you want to generate that then 10 times of solar panel area is required. Solar cells cannot be stacked one above the other. It has to be distributed evenly.”
When it comes to plumbing, the project incorporates a reverse osmosis RO system, where it recycles and retreats the water for irrigation purposes. Lobo categorically says that prefabrication could not be applied on this particular project. He says: “For LEED building, part of the total electricity, around 10%, has to be locally gen consumed, which is equivalent to 1MW. For that purpose, solar panels are placed on the roof and above the parking shelter.
The total MEP workforce currently on this project is around 300, which includes HVAC, electrical, plumbing, fire fighting, and subcontractors.
Working under its parent company ASGC, Lobo says that there are several advantages. He says: “Many things are mutually understood rather than going contractual. Secondly, financially, we are secure because we are working directly with the parent company. They take care about all the MEP-related financial issues.”
However, ASU is also independent and untertakes work with other outside entities. Lobo says: “When you work with other contractors, there are challenges. More documentation is needed and you have to prove that you can manage all the technical and financial resources. However, you learn a lot working outside the company.”
Lobo says that competition is rife in the MEP sector. “Everyone is trying to run behind projects, thereby killing the prices. At the same time, to have a good name in the market, you have to preserve your resources.” However, ASU manages to stay competitive, stating what sets it apart. Lobo says: “ASU has a very open culture. If you are talented and show good potential, you are rewarded.”