Feature: MEP works at the Museum of the Future is in full swing

Marko Ruljanovic, associate MEP engineer at BuroHappold Engineering, demonstrates the ongoing MEP works at the Museum of the Future.


The Museum of the Future is a building with an intricate structure. Some architects have even touted it to be one of the world’s most complex building. The complexity was quite apparent when MEP Middle East viewed it from the ground.

The museum building, which is under construction and located in front of the Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Dubai, is defined by its amazing torus form, designed by architect, Shaun Killa of Killa Design.


This extraordinary project is an initiative of Dubai Future Foundation (DFF), whose vision is to create the world’s most exciting home to the future of innovation, building on over five years of temporary immersive exhibitions held at the World Government Summit. The key stakeholders involved in this collaborative project include DFF, Meraas Holding, North25, Matthew Southwest, BAM Higgs & Hill, BuroHappold, Trans Gulf, Killa Design, and others.
Once complete, the museum will become a major centre for future trends in all scientific and technological fields, collaborating with businesses, entrepreneurs and governments from all over the world to develop solutions for their current and future work. The building is expected to be a place for visitors to experience the future through virtual simulations and interactive demonstrations.
HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, had remarked that “the Museum of the Future will be an incubator for ideas, a driver for innovation, and a destination for inventors and entrepreneurs from around the world”. 
BuroHappold Engineering is the lead consultant for the project, having carried out the full engineering design since project conception, and now providing supervision of the works onsite. BAM Higgs & Hill is the main contractor, with Trans Gulf Electro-Mechanical as the MEP sub-contractor.
The installations of MEP system is well underway, with significant areas of the basement and podium MEP works nearing completion, reports Marko Ruljanovic, who leads the BuroHappold MEP engineering supervision team for the project. 
There is Arabic calligraphy inscribed on the building’s façade, which is a major design feature. Ruljanovic reminds us that an artist worked with the architects to optimise the layout of the calligraphy font. He says: “From an MEP standpoint, what’s interesting is how the calligraphy will be lit with integrated LED lighting, all using DMX-controlled product lighting control systems.”
Ruljanovic says that each of façade panels has numerous individual light fitting lines, with some panels being up to 18-metres tall. “There is a significant amount of light fitting, power cabling and data cabling within each panel, all to ensure maximum LED performance. It’s all about digital intelligence of the façade, combined with lots of planning and coordination just for the façade installation,” he says.
The museum features seven storeys of exhibition space, three podium levels including an auditorium, restaurant, cafe and a feature lobby area.
Talking about the mechanical systems, Ruljanovic says that the primary systems are installed in the basement. He says: “There’s an energy transfer station (ETS) room. We’re getting our cooling needs from the district cooling provider Empower.” There are plate and frame heat exchangers, where the heat transfer between the district cooling plant and the building takes place, and from out of the basement, the chilled water system rises up and goes up to the top exhibition floor of level 7. The distribution is essentially carried out through air handling units, fresh air handling units and fan coil units. There are also closed control units for business critical systems. The chilled water system employs pressure independent control valves (PICVs) that are self-balancing for controlling the cooling to each of the aforementioned terminal units.
On asking why district cooling is preferred for such a project, Ruljanovic says that the reason is because of “space efficiency”. He says: “Every square metre of the building is valuable to how the building will be used, and because of the proximity of many district cooling plants around the catchment area, it was ideal to go for district cooling.” He also adds that choosing a cooling system is a balance of what is “best for the building form versus the related viability of the local infrastructure”.
Moving on to the electrical systems, Ruljanovic says that there are (low voltage) LV systems that are fed from a substation onsite just like all buildings in Dubai. He adds: “DEWA has provided us with a set of six transformers. There will also be a significant component of solar energy, with DEWA working closely with us and the client to provide designated power just for this building from neighbouring solar plants that will be located across nearby parks and infrastructure. There’s a switching station onsite that allows the mixing of the power from the normal feed and solar power.” The Museum of the Future is targeting a LEED Platinum rating.
The building will have essential power backup for any life safety and business continuity needs, says Ruljanovic. He says: “There will be business critical systems like IT and security. Then, you have your rudimentary ELV systems for high-end high-grade buildings. We have a fully automated building management system (BMS), security system, fire alarm system, centralised emergency lighting system, telecoms, etc. Those are all standard systems that a project requires, but on top of that because this is a museum and an exhibition space, we are heavily provisioning the space for AV (audio visual) and IT type of environment.”
Ruljanovic says that there is a huge elevator, which provides a dual purpose for moving exhibits in and out of the building, and as part of the visitor experience moving up through the building. “It’s a very big lift, easily capable of carrying cars or small trucks to the highest exhibition floor. The walls of the lift will be laced with high-end AV systems inside,” he says.
The immersive experience and AV systems are a theme that is implemented throughout the museum. “The MEP systems and installations are key to achieving the futuristic feel and to demonstrate the very latest in current technologies within a building”, Ruljanovic says.
Talking about the plumbing systems in place, apart from the typical drainage systems such as storm waste system, there is also a greywater recycling system. “We have a greywater treatment plant in the building which allows us to take wastewater from throughout the building, which is collected, filtered and then polished. There’s also a UV filter to remove all particles and we treat the water up to a certain level that can be used for irrigation or building landscaping. This is a small part of the overall sustainability strategy,” Ruljanovic adds. The greywater treatment daily yield is 34m3 of reclaimed water for irrigation which is over a quarter of the maximum daily irrigation demand.
The other way the building is being sustainable is through condensate recovery. Condensate recovery is a process to reuse the water and sensible heat contained in the discharged condensate. Recovering condensate instead of throwing it away can lead to significant savings of energy. He says: “We are collecting about 80% of all the condensate that is generated in our air handling equipment, fan coil units, etc., and storing it in a tank for reuse.”
It should be noted that the abovementioned is not a LEED requirement. “It’s not about chasing LEED points. The approach to sustainability has to be genuine and intrinsic to the project, and we always push to do more than the normal requirements,” Ruljanovic explains.
The HVAC systems that are being used work on the principle of demand control ventilation (DCV). Demand controlled ventilation is an automatic adjustment of ventilation equipment according to occupancy. It is a control method that modulates the volume exchange of fresh or outside air into an enclosed space by mechanical air conditioning equipment. Ruljanovic adds: “We’re monitoring every occupied space. We’re monitoring fresh air and CO2 levels, and accordingly, we’re opening up VAVs (variable air volume units) from the fresh air systems to the air handling units and delivering the exact amount of fresh air that you need for the space. So, it’s helping us reduce energy consumption. If, for example, the space is empty, and there are no occupants, the CO2 levels will be low. We bring the fresh air requirement down, and the fresh air handling unit doesn’t have to work as hard. On the other hand, if the space is packed, we can open up the fresh air levels accordingly, for maximum visitor comfort.”

Marko Ruljanovic, associate MEP engineer at BuroHappold Engineering

Planning stages
Surely, for such a complex structure to come into fruition, there has to be several months of planning involved. BuroHappold is the MEP lead designer. Ruljanovic says: “Everything starts from the client’s vision and understanding the brief from the stakeholders. You have to get a range of specialists onboard who will tell you what the requirements are for such an unusual museum or exhibition space. We integrate that information and further develop the overall design as a cohesive entity. We have to do our calculations for our cooling loads, carry out power calculations, set up a grid system on each exhibition floor of power points, because the exhibition floors are vast open spaces. We have a theatre specialist onboard as well who informs us about the requirements for an immersive theatre experience. In itself, the museum is a beautiful architectural design with swooping ceilings; everything is geometrically complex.”
He adds: “We have a full team from BuroHappold working on the project. We have structural engineers, MEP engineers, façade engineers, fire engineers, acoustic specialists, lighting specialists, etc. We’re proud to have the vast majority of our team based onsite too, which is critical to the day-to-day efficiency of the project and the resulting quality.”
Building information modelling (BIM) definitely played a huge role in the process. It is unimaginable not to use BIM for such complex projects.
Ruljanovic says: “Everything has been designed in a fully digital environment with both existing and newly developed BIM tools. Autodesk’s BIM 360 Glue is fully implemented across the BuroHappold and BAM/Trans Gulf team. We use iPads onsite to view the live BIM model, and we hold workshops with Trans Gulf based purely on walking through the 3D models.
“Every conceivable MEP element is modelled in a digital space. You should see the Trans Gulf BIM model, it’s quite unbelievable. It gives us a completely different way of working in MEP. Without BIM, I think the MEP systems design and installations would have been almost impossible to achieve in certain areas. It’s almost like the intricate MEP systems in the aeronautical world, with incredibly complex and exacting geometries that navigate throughout the building.”
Because of the critical shape and complicated geometry, one cannot just apply previous learning onto this project, says Ruljanovic. This is the reason why prefabrication was limited in its use for this structure. He says: “This is not a typical rectilinear building with a common layout, where we prefabricate the room and install the same units. Every floor is different and they’re all unique in terms of the interiors.”
Ruljanovic says that the façade panels are fabricated in a factory in Dubai. He says: “The façades are all individually unique pieces that must fit together perfectly, and as far as electrical and ductwork go, we are pre-insulating the ducts before they get installed up into very high ceilings. So there is some minute level of prefabrication going on.”
Other than all the challenges and excitement of working on the project, Ruljanovic concludes that one of the biggest challenges is to keep pace with the technology while the project is being
He says: “The project was designed back in 2015; however, technology is moving forward at a rapid pace. We’re all striving to make sure that the MEP building performance and related visitor experience, both deliver on the vision of providing a building that will not only exhibit the future, but also be a symbol of great future building design.”
Dubai, and the world, has definitely something exciting to look forward to in the near future.

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