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By: Ben Smalley

  With the number of visitors to Dubai increasing at a staggering rate each year, Dubai International Airport is expanding to meet the increased passenger flow through the construction of two new concourses and a third terminal dedicated to Emirates airline. By the time the massive construction project is complete, the airport will be able to handle 70 million passengers a year, compared with its current capacity of 22 million.

  Emirates is a launch customer for the Airbus A380, and the new facilities make provision for the arrival of the new ‘Super Jumbo’, with other facilities including four and five star hotels, first and business class lounges, a spacious duty free area, an internal Skytrain, along with Metro stations for the forthcoming Dubai Light Railway.

  A spokesman for the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation said: “To meet the travel needs of the influx of travellers and airlines, the government of Dubai has committed to a major expansion plan for Dubai International Airport and its affiliated divisions. This expansion program is designed to turn Dubai International Airport into an even more user-friendly and efficient airport in order to maintain the emirate’s position as the aviation and business hub of the region.”

  With construction of the superstructure of the new facilities nearing completion, the Dh 3.6bn contract for the fit-out of the new Terminal Three, Concourse Two and associated car park was recently awarded to a Joint Venture between Al Habtoor Engineering Enterprises, Murray & Roberts and Takenaka.

  Having completed the Dh 540 million Sheikh Rashid Terminal Concourse at Dubai International Airport in 2000, the Joint Venture between Al Habtoor Engineering Enterprises and Murray & Roberts has been involved in a number of construction projects at Dubai airport ever since – with this latest contract continuing a long tradition of working with the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation.

  “The Joint Venture between Al Habtoor Engineering Enterprises and Murray & Roberts has been a successful working partnership for many years, but this is the first time we have brought in a third partner in Takenaka - a Japanese corporation with extensive airport construction experience,” explained project director Peter Thomas.

  “Predominantly, they are a specialist MES (Mechanical, Electrical & Systems) engineering company and bring a massive amount of technical expertise to the project. Otherwise it is business as usual with Murray & Roberts bringing the project management skills and Al Habtoor Engineering Enterprises providing the resources to enable it all to happen.”

  Among the most striking features of the project is the fact that the new terminal is being built underground, and the design will make it even more spectacular than the award-winning Sheikh Rashid Terminal. Terminal Three's departure and arrival halls will be located 10m below the apron and taxiways, but will not feel claustrophobic as visual contact will be maintained with the outside world through a fully glazed facade at one end, and the naturally lit atrium of Concourse Two at the other end.

  Directly connected to Terminal Three, Concourse Two is dedicated exclusively to Emirates. The building will include a multi-level structure for departures and arrivals, incorporating 27 contact gates and 59 passenger-loading bridges. It will also include a number of aerobridges capable of handling the new Airbus A380 Super Jumbo.

  “This is one of the biggest civil engineering projects of its type in the world at the moment and takes the existing airport to the next level,” Mr Thomas said. “To give an example, there is a massive waterfall in the main area where the Skytrain operates, which will be spectacular.”

  The fit-out team faces an enormous challenge due to the size of the project and the sheer volume of work that needs to be completed within a relatively short timeframe, but they are relishing the opportunity to work on such a prestigious project.

  “The contract was awarded on 19 December 2004, and we have the first major milestone to reach by 4 June 2006 – which is having ‘wild air’ (conditioned chilled air, but not controlled) which is needed to provide a stable environment for the finishes to be completed, as materials expand in heat and humidity,” Mr Thomas explained.

  “The airport is scheduled to become operational by 19 December 2006, and that is the date for Phase One to be completed. By that stage we will have undertaken some 98% of the work and then have until 19 April 2007 to complete the fit-out of the airport hotels.”

  In total the team will complete some 460,000 square metres of blockwork, 500,000 square metres of plastering, 550,000square metres of ceiling, install some 9000 doors, and lay over 300,000 square metres of tiles. At peak capacity, there will be 13,000-14,000 people working on the site, with careful coordination required to ensure the many different aspects of the job come together as planned.

  “The challenge of the project is achieving what is expected of us in such a short period of time,” Mr Thomas said. “Most of the major works in Dubai at the moment revolve around building towers, but here we have a very horizontal building and we have to integrate many other systems being undertaken by the other associated contractors such as baggage handling, the mass transport Metro stations and the Skytrain. In addition, we have a number of nominated subcontractors, the biggest being Thermo LLC whom we have worked with on the airport since the first terminal. Our role as the principal contractor is to ensure that all these different scopes of work dovetail together, so it is a major logistical and planning exercise.”

  He added: “To understand the concept of the physical size of the project, the Sheikh Rashid Terminal is 750m long, whereas this is another 200m in length and also a lot taller. If you analyse the sheer volume of work that has to be done in the time available, you will begin to recognise what a challenging project this is.”

  Once the airport becomes operational, the team will have the added challenge of working within a busy, functioning airport, alongside passengers, airport staff and officials, as they complete the remaining work.

  Mr. Thomas said: “The contract starts ‘landside’ but by December next year it will become an operational airport and it will then go ‘airside’, yet we will still have work to do. But, with all our experience of working on projects at the airport, we are used to working ‘airside’ - although it does become more difficult logistically because you are working in a secure area.”

  As Dubai continues to expand and welcome even more international visitors, the new airport terminal will serve as a fitting introduction to the most dynamic business and tourism city in the Middle East.

  “For most visitors, the first thing they see when they arrive in a country is the airport and Dubai airport will be a reflection of what people can expect in the city,” Mr Thomas said. “It will have sheer presence, style and opulence, which is what Dubai is all about.”


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