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07 December 2023

An integrated approach

The management of the logistics was identified during the earliest stage of the construction of Burj Dubai. (SUPPLIED)

By Sona Nambiar

It has been a long journey for the Samsung-Besix-Arabtec joint venture since it won the contract for the construction of the Burj Dubai in December 2004. Their single biggest challenge? "To complete the superstructure of the world's tallest tower within 1,429 days," the joint venture told Emirates Business by issuing a joint statement to the questions in keeping with the project team spirit.

When was Samsung appointed and why specifically did they decide on joining forces with Arabtec and Besix?

AArabtec had previously worked in a joint venture with Besix on the Emirates Palace Hotel and with Samsung on the Adia tower. When the tender was announced, it seemed the obvious solution to combine forces and harness the already existing good team relationships as well as take advantage of each company's pedigree in high-rise construction and their strong local presence. Work commenced on site on February 1, 2005.

How have you handled the joint venture for a project of this size in terms of people, work cultures, languages and shifting deadlines?

From the beginning of the tender process, the philosophy of the joint venture was always to work together as a fully-integrated team. Thereafter, the clear focus of all involved was the successful construction and completion of the project.

The site organisation was resourced by the three partners and was reinforced whenever required.

The previous experience of the three companies working together in joint ventures in the UAE assisted in overcoming any cultural differences that may have existed, which contributed to an early start on site and the achievement of the first contract milestones.

To overcome difficulties in the construction phase of the project, the joint venture developed efficient means of close communication brought about through continuous dialogue between the members of the project management team, holding an early morning daily meeting involving all the senior site management and, whenever considered to be beneficial, holding specific task-related workshops, which enabled the early identification of potential problems and implementation of the suitable solutions.

How did you handle the complex issues of logistics and construction on a high-density site?

The management of the logistics was identified during the earliest stage as one of the major challenges confronting the joint venture in the successful execution of the project.

Some of the issues to be managed included:

a) Provision of adequate lifting facilities to extreme heights. To overcome this obstacle, we provided three modified Favco luffing tower cranes each with their own hydraulic jumping system. Dedicated rigging teams were employed including the recruitment of skilled experienced personnel who had previously worked with Samsung on the Petronas Tower.

b) To provide continuous access to the tower through areas under construction at lower levels. We mobilised a logistics team who were responsible to prepare weekly look ahead overhead/birds eye view plans, which helped to more easily visualise the overall site situation and enabled the correct determination, provision and relocation of access routes, and storage zones, throughout the project without disturbing the ongoing finishing works at the lower levels, including corridors, staircases and the podium finishes.

c) Transporting and providing temporary facilities for 12,000 people working on the project. To facilitate vertical transportation, we provided 14 temporary hoists and partly used the permanent elevators for construction use to transport manpower and materials up the tower as well as to remove debris from the building. Toilet and eating facilities were provided at designated locations and were relocated as construction needs dictated.

How did you tackle the health and safety issues and manpower given the sheer scale of the project?

Working at heights presents danger under any circumstances, but, especially so, when working at extreme heights. Some of the safety measures employed were:

a) Daily morning safety toolbox meetings were held with all subcontractors to discuss relevant site issues, clarification of the access routes available to reach the designated assembly points, repeated safety violations and so on.

b) The setting up of a weekly "crisis management meeting" to deal with the major health and safety issues confronting the project.

c) Close communication with Dubai Civil Defence who assisted with the development of training initiatives to prepare for any major safety issues and to put in place emergency evacuation systems.

d) Strict implementation of a permit to work issue system for any welding or fire related activities and procurement of fire fighting equipment throughout the tower.

e) Dedicated safety teams to manage and check routine safety issues, such as safe use of safety belts and scaffolding. In addition regular safety training was provided to all operatives and areas to be used for smoking and eating were clearly demarcated.

What were the challenges specific to the site and what were the innovative solutions from the joint venture?

There were a number of site-specific challenges for this project.

a) To complete the superstructure of the worlds tallest tower within 1429 days: We prepared a meticulous method statement which utilised techniques such as breaking down construction of the centre core into different self contained segments, each using its own self jumping formwork system and main tower crane. We also developed a concrete mix design, which achieved its required strength in sufficient time to allow us to complete a floor level every three days.

b) Concrete pouring above 160 levels: We developed and put in place unique systems to pump concrete to such heights, including changing concrete mix designs to suit different conditions and installing intricate temporary concrete pipelines.

c) Erection of the spire steelwork and pipe: Great care and time was taken to develop the design of the spire steelwork to facilitate its erection at heights never before undertaken and in weather conditions for which no previous data existed.

In particular, close co-ordination was required with all associated site activities in the location of the spire due to the space being severely congested. Erection of the spire was especially challenging as it involved jacking a 143-metre pipe, weighing some 415 tonnes and 80m vertically.

d) Maintain vertical tolerances: To assist in achievement of the specified vertical tolerances, we used a global positioning system's (GPS) surveying system, which accurately recorded the movement of the building. By using such modern techniques, we were able to quickly adjust our structure setting out to suit any given circumstance.

How did the changes in height affect the construction process? Especially, handling all issues of the cranes, the spires, self-climbing formwork, steelwork connections, manpower and so on?

All planned site logistics were arranged and organised to be flexible enough to cope with any given situation.


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