Building the future on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island

ABU DHABI: A mega project that will put Abu Dhabi on the world tourism map is fast developing on the emirate’s Saadiyat Island, housing museums, the largest school campus and a shopping neighbourhood.

Developed by the Tourism and Development Investment Company (TDIC), the 2,430,000 square metre Saadiyat Island Cultural District will house museums such as Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum, in addition to Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, the largest school campus in the city, and The District, a 17 hectare indoor-outdoor shopping neighbourhood.

The District will provide three new avenues for the capital – Luxury Street, Canal Street, and Main Street – as well as 550 new department stores, boutiques, galleries, restaurants and cafes, some of which will be housed in Abu Dhabi’s newest mall, the Crescent Arcade.

It is difficult to estimate exactly how many people will be involved in the transformation – over the next two years, the number of labourers working on the museums alone is set to leap from 5,000 to 25,000 said Jassim Al Hammadi, Director of Buildings and Infrastructure, TDIC.

“We have to make sure that all of the infrastructure surrounding the Cultural District is delivered on time and before the testing and commissioning of any of the museums, otherwise you will have a series of dead buildings without any power, water, sewage or irrigation, that cannot be operated. You simply cannot run any building without infrastructure,” he told English daily, The National.

Deep services for the museum district, including sewers and storm-water pipes, were completed in March 2011 and construction of the main sewage treatment plant on Saadiyat was completed in the summer of 2012.

“The Cultural District will put Abu Dhabi on the world tourism map, so I consider myself very lucky to be working on this project. Delivering one museum is something, but working on three is unique,” he added.

When each new project is added to Saadiyat island – such as the new campus for New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), or Cranleigh – steps have to be taken to ensure there is enough capacity in the available infrastructure to support it. If not, it means working with utility providers to provide the necessary infrastructure, water and energy.

“We are then involved in the design stage, to make sure that whatever is designed will meet with the requirements of the various authorities and will gain their approval,” Mr Al Hammadi says. “Afterwards, when the consultants have delivered their detailed designs, we conduct a technical review of the drawings before they are issued to potential contractors for bidding.” After contracts have been awarded and construction begins, Mr Al Hammadi and his team make daily visits to each site and attend progress meetings, the details of which he reports directly to the executive directors of TDIC.

“My job is to make sure that everybody is doing their job properly,” he says. “We are the client’s representatives and we have to make sure that the contractor is committed to the quality that we have agreed on and to the programme as well. We are also responsible for ensuring that he doesn’t exceed the budget.” Mr. Al Hammadi’s role is a technical position that draws on his 13 years of experience in construction. His first role was as a site engineer with the developer Al Qudra, after which he worked with Sorouh on major projects on Reem Island before moving to TDIC and the Saadiyat Island project.