ALEC: One Za’abeel

Today a site visit was planned at the ONE Za’abeel which is being constructed by ALEC Engineering and Contracting LLC. This company is based in the GCC and has also a presence in Africa. They are mostly focused on constructing complex and iconic projects. Often the goal of these projects is to exceed the expectations of the client for quality, safety, functionality and aesthetics. The iconic project ONE Za’abeel fits perfectly in this description. The project consists of two large towers of 330 and 235 meters tall, called Tower A and B respectively. These towers are located on either side of a major highway and are surrounded by many other roads. Below the towers are 7 podium levels and three underground levels. The main focus point is the skybridge between the two towers and the world record breaking cantilever on the side of Tower A.

The site visit started with a presentations from the project manager and the site manager of the project. This presentation included a description of the process needed to construct the building and the major challenges during construction. The main challenge was the construction of the skybridge as the highway under the bridge never closed for construction. This was solved by partially constructing the skybridge on top of the podium levels, sliding the skybridge over the highway, and afterwards welding the next part of the skybridge to this structure. When the skybridge was fully constructed the bridge was lifted 10 cm above ground to analyse the forces on the skybridge. After 48 hours the bridge was fully lifted to its position, still over a life highway, and then welded to the towers. Because of the weight of the bridge the towers were constructed slanted and twisted, while the bridge itself is constructed cambered. Because of the weight of the structure, the structure will straighten when everything is in place. Another major challenge were the changes wanted by the client of the project during the entire period of construction.

After the presentation there was a tour through the construction site and the buildings. This tour started of with heading towards the cantilever with the entire group. During the visit there was a total of 6200 workers active at the construction site. Even though so many employees are still working at the building the façade of the entire building is mostly finished and this is also the case for the cantilever. During the visit the windows were cleaned so they could be finalized by the sub-contractor. After looking at the construction work inside the cantilever we went on top of the cantilever where also a lot of construction work was going on. On top of the cantilever is a 100 meter swimming pool, this shows the luxury of the building which fits the focus of ALEC as mentioned. After the tour of the cantilever the group split in two with each group going in either tower A or B and then switching after the tour of the first tower was done

Inside the cantilever of the One Za’abeel
Workers cleaning the windows in order to finalize the work for the sub-contractor
Swimming pool on top of the cantilever

Tower A is the biggest tower of the complex. This tower has a mixed use development and for this tower three hotels were visited and the top of the building. The three hotels were all luxury hotels. The first was an ultra luxury hotel, the second a luxury hotel and the final hotel was especially for top athletes. This was hotel for top athletes was also one of the changes mentioned by the site manager. At the location of this hotel a different hotel was constructed after which the client decided on this new top athlete hotel. Because of this change the hotel already constructed at this location had to be demolished entirely and rebuild. The tour of tower A ended on the top of the roof where construction of the main structure was being finalized. This construction was mostly because of an other change by the client who wanted a swimming pool on the top floor of the building. The building was not structurally calculated for this swimming pool so the structure had to be altered to fit the new wish of the client.

View on top of Tower A of the ONE Za’abeel
Crane on top of the roof of Tower A of the ONE Za’abeel

Tower B, which was also visited, is the smaller tower of the two towers and only residential. This tower has different type of residential units with several types of sizes. In order to be able to sell the units the contractor has finished two floors completely before finishing the remaining part of the tower. We got a tour around these two floors and the different type of luxury apartments on these floors.

Inside one of the luxury apartments of Tower A
Kitchen inside apartment Tower B

The main takeaways from this site visit were that the wishes of the client in Dubai come above all else and can be changed late in the construction process. These wishes of the client could cause many challenges and complications. Other parts of the project management process such as sustainability and stakeholder management become an after thought because of the demands of the client.