READY SET EXPO
Expo 2020 Dubai’ s construction workforce will double next year as activity reaches a crucial period on the project
Major construction work for Expo 2020 Dubai will be completed in October 2019, leaving plenty of time for testing and preparation before its doors open to the 21 million visitors that organisers expect will attend the sixmonth event.
The project is now at a crucial point in its construction timeline, with little more than a year to go until the complex building and infrastructural works need to be finished. With activity accelerating in preparation for the busiest period, Construction Week finds out how work on the 4.38km² site is progressing.
Ahmed Al Khatib, senior vice president of real estate and delivery at Expo 2020 Dubai, tells Construction Week that an “impressive pace of progress” has been maintained since early work on the project, located in Dubai South, began in 2015. He emphasises that “close collaboration” between all of the stakeholders on site has been vital to help “coordinate logistics and ensure that work continues according to [...] schedule”. This momentum is crucial as Dubai prepares to host the first-ever world fair in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.
In terms of progress, construction is well advanced on the three Thematic Districts that form the core of the expo site. All three districts – named Mobility, Opportunity, and Sustainability, based on Expo 2020 Dubai’s sub-themes – will be connected by Al Wasl Plaza, the centrepiece of the site. Work has started on the erection of steelwork pieces that form the domed trellis of Al Wasl Plaza, after the parts arrived by ship from Italy, where they were cast by Cimolai.
Foundations and structural works are now complete within the three Thematic Districts. Moreover, all concrete works for the districts have been completed, with about 243,000m³ of concrete poured. Precast production and installation is now taking place, with façade, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing, and publicrealm works also in progress. Khatib says the Phase 1 infrastructure package, which includes work for the Expo Village and the Dubai 2020 Metro Line, is almost complete: “Our Phase 2 infrastructural works will be completed in 2019.”
Both packages include building sewage lines, electricity cabling, telecommunications, fire systems, storm
“ALL OF THE CONSTRUCTION GUIDELINES WE HAVE HERE ARE RAISING THE STANDARDS FOR THE WHOLE OF DUBAI.” AHMED AL KHATIB, EXPO 2020 DUBAI
water drainage systems, a road network, and car parks. All three 132kV substations were completed earlier this year and are now live. The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) plants will generate and distribute power for the Expo 2020 site. Earlier this year, the authority revealed that the total construction cost for its three substations stood at $114m (AED420m).
Khatib says he is pleased with the pace of progress to date, adding that he expects activity to go up a gear in the next nine months. Project stakeholders will have to build upon and grow their respective site management strategies as more workers arrive to build the development.
There are approximately 20,000 workers on site now. The number of staff on the ground will double to 40,000 when building activity reaches its busiest period in H1 2019 – this headcount figure represents both manual and nonmanual workers, including third-party stakeholders and building teams for international participants.
There are currently 45 tower cranes on site, and ongoing works on the project include shade structure and canopy installation by the Middle East division of Cleveland Bridge and Engineering.
UAE-based companies play an important role in the construction efforts. Contractors including AF Construction, Arabtec, ALEC, ASGC, Besix, Khansaheb, and Tristar Engineering are all involved with the scheme. Al Naboodah Construction has completed early works for the project, and it is also working on the car parks and associated roads, in addition to civil defence and emergency response buildings. Other notable names involved with the development include Emaar Properties, Meraas, Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority, China State Construction Engineering Corporation Middle East, and many other local and international players.
Construction teams have shifted enough sand to fill 2,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools since work started on the project in 2015. All of the stakeholders are working to reuse as much excavated material as possible, as part of the expo’s efforts to balance cut and fill activities.
This is just one of the many key performance indicators (KPIs) contractors are abiding by, Khatib explains: “In total, the site has 41 KPIs covering the sustainability of the project, [which includes] not just the construction of the expo, but the design and commissioning of the entire project as well.”
Expo 2020 Dubai may go on to become the most sustainable world fair to date, and Khatib believes the eco-friendly measures implemented for the scheme are having an impact across the emirate. “All of the construction guidelines we have here are raising the standards for the whole of Dubai,” he notes.
Building teams follow a waste strategy that encourages firms to reduce, reuse, or recycle as much as possible. This includes construction waste, as well as solid and municipal waste. The expo’s goal is for 85% of all construction waste to be segmented, allowing surplus materials to be treated and diverted away from landfill. This target is higher than the UAE Vision 2021 goal of diverting 75% of solid municipal waste away from landfill.
Asphalt mix used to surface 30,000 under-construction car park spaces – which will be completed in Q2 2019 – was reformulated as part of the expo’s sustainability drive. Around a fifth of the mixture used to manufacture asphalt for the road that Al Naboodah Construction is building comes from recycled tyres.
“We carried out a series of comprehensive tests on various asphalt mixes to see what works best in the heat and [to determine] how much pressure it can withstand,” Khatib says, adding that this could be the first time in the region that this technique has been used on such a large scale.
For construction projects on the scale of Expo 2020 Dubai, where a multitude of contractors and sub-contractors are involved, it can often be hard to ensure all parties follow the same guidelines on safety and sustainability. However, thanks to the commitment demonstrated by construction stakeholders on the expo project, this not been an issue, and its major building works are expected to complete on time in October 2019.
Coupled with the project’s industryleading sustainability and green building initiatives – such as using recycled tyres for asphalt, significantly reducing waste, maximising renewable energy opportunities, and converting moisture into water – the expo is making great progress in areas that transcend its timely delivery.
As Khatib says, Expo 2020 has raised the bar for construction standards in Dubai – and it will continue to do so in the months to come.
Drone footage provides a bird’s-eye view of work under way for the Sustainability Pavilion [image by Expo 2020].