Etihad Towers: A soaring icon for the UAE

August 20, 2013 in Tourism & Leisure

Soaring over the Abu Dhabi skyline, the Etihad Towers paint an iconic image of the Gulf region’s economic development.

The five towers serve a number of purposes in the United Arab Emirates’ capital, having been developed in 2006. Richard Foulds has been Property Manager for Etihad Towers since November 1st, 2011 and takes up the story:

“This is a new business that was set up under the Private Office of His Highness Sheikh Suroor (SSPO) to run and manage Etihad Towers. I joined the same day that Etihad Towers opened its doors to the public on 1st November 2011.

“Etihad Towers is a fully integrated development designed around the concept of ‘Unity’, in Arabic ‘Etihad’. It is a luxurious product, offering a 5 star experience, brought together by a variety of use classes that provide residents and visitors a community in which to live, work, dine, shop and relax.  We have 5 stunning towers that have set a new benchmark in terms of quality, aesthetics and lifestyle, positioned in one of the best locations in the Abu Dhabi capital.”

The inspiration for the complex came from His Highness Sheikh Suroor Bin Mohamed Al Nahyan, who wanted to create a development capable of competing with any mixed-use development on a global scale, in terms of design, build quality and the final asset performance.

In order to achieve this vision, it was essential for the developer, Sheikh Suroor’s Projects Department (SSPD), to put in place a world class team of market leaders who could help deliver the project and meet the highest of expectations.

“As such, the department appointed Hill International as Project Manager, Engineering Consultant – AECOM as Engineering Consultant and ACC as the main contractor, to compliment the skills of DBI Design and SSPD,” states Foulds.

“An International design competition was held and in 2005 the contract was awarded to DBI from Australia.  Their design proposal was selected for its resolution of the highly complex and interconnected programmatic brief, and its response to the competition’s objective of creating a significant visual landmark at the end of Abu Dhabi’s Corniche,” he continues.

The complex presents as a scaleless enigmatic sculptural object, from various directions the complex can clearly be understood as referencing an opening blossom, billowing sail, fleet of vessels, traditional sword and a pearl shell. The multiple references and multiple forms are drawn together in a single composition which can be seen as an allusion to the unity of the United Arab Emirates and its capital city Abu Dhabi.

Jumeirah_at_Etihad_Towers-Tower_RoomEtihad Towers is situated in Abu Dhabi’s exclusive district of Ras Al Akhdar, set in a beautifully landscaped and hardscaped environment, overlooking the luxurious Emirates Palace to the west and the exclusive Al Bateen area to the east. Each of the towers benefits from unrivalled views over the Arabian Gulf, the world famous Corniche and Emirates Palace, which is considered to be one of the most iconic buildings in Abu Dhabi.

“The immediate surroundings are a very important commercial and administrative area for the Capital with the new Presidential Palace due to open in 2014, less than a kilometre to the north-west of Etihad Towers,” says Foulds. “This has proved an important factor for Governmental and local tenants, who need to be in close vicinity to this area.  In addition, ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) are in the process of developing their new HQ building which is situated less than 200m away, on the opposite side of Banunah Street.

“Residents and tenants also derive benefit from being less than a 10 minute walk from Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi’s largest mall, and a short drive from the many local shops and restaurants in the City’s Khalidiyah Area,” he adds.

The 5 towers are of course mixed use, with Tower 1 containing a 382 room hotel with 199 additional serviced apartments. As if to endorse the splendour of the buildings, the Jumeirah hotel chain took ownership of this tower, creating the luxury Jumeirah at Etihad Towers hotel, affording stunning views of the Arabian Gulf.

Overseeing the day to day running of the hotel is Doris Grief, General Manager:

“Whether you prefer to spend your time cooling off in one of our three swimming pools, strolling along the glorious private beach, treating yourself to some of the best retail therapy to be found in the Middle East, or being pampered in the Talise Spa, you’ll find our service is second to none.

“The hotel features a number of unique venues for social events, outstanding conference and meeting facilities, while our serviced residences – which benefit from the top-tier facilities offered by Jumeirah at Etihad Towers – are Abu Dhabi’s most exclusive and prestigious.

“Guests can also shop at the world-renowned Avenue at Etihad Towers and sample a dizzying choice of international cuisines, fine wines and imaginative cocktails available at the hotel’s restaurants and bars. Make use of exceptional leisure facilities and activities, and hold a successful social event, meeting or conference at any of our unique venues.”

Whilst Tower 1 is home to the prestigious Jumeirah Hotel, Towers 2, 4 and 5 have been designed to accommodate 885 residential apartments, varying between 1 and 4 bedrooms each, in addition to 7 luxury penthouses. Tower 3 contains offices, with 45,000 square metres of leasable space from the second to the 52nd floor.

In addition, the complex boasts a large Conference Centre, equipped with 14 mixed area meeting rooms and a 1,800 square metre ballroom, a Luxury Retail Boutique, comprising of 38 units and a supermarket – and 4 levels of parking, providing 3,000 spaces.

Overall the project to construct the towers cost in the region of AED4 billion, with funding provided by one of the local UAE banks.

“Leasing of our residential units began in November 2011 and was rolled out across all 3 residential towers in 2012, while the hotel opened in October 2011, ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 that year and the office building commenced leasing at the same time,” recalls Foulds.

Etihad Towers was created with an eye for the latest environmental technologies:

“We wanted to create a location that will be a worldwide destination for recreation, entertainment, residential and commercial uses, but also one that would set a high standard for quality of design, selection of materials, and workmanship for all aspects of the architecture, engineering and landscape.

“Etihad Towers aims to provide an environment that is responsive to and takes into account the local climate providing a level of protection and comfort to end users,” says Foulds.

“The complex uses a state of the art lighting control system with a centralized head-end that control all external and internal lights. Passive Infrared (PIR) is installed in all washrooms and common area corridors and we operate timed switching on the emergency stairwells. Each room includes energy efficiency high frequency light fittings including LED and Compact Fluorescent.

“The Towers also include a number of climate control considerations including heat recover wheels, variable frequency drive for all AHU’s and state of the art BMS which has been supplied by Johnson Controls.

“Chilled Water auto balancing valves ensure consistent flow and optimum pressure and each room includes efficient VAV – air handling units and an aluminum façade glazed curtain wall with energy-efficient low emissivity coated glass.

“Condensation from the air conditioning is collected for landscaping purposes and the rooms come with water efficient sanitary fittings including taps and ‘American Standard’ fixtures, while there is a centralized multi stage potable water filtration system. We also provide a number of recycling and conservation features,” he continues.

Since project completion, Foulds says that a number of innovate methods have been introduced to the day to day operations of the development, such as, Infrared Camera Technology deployed to ensure Air Tightness of the building, vibration monitor for PPM purposes, as well as, a fully integrated management system that incorporates leasing and rent renewals, property management, a dedicated helpdesk with reactive services, inventory and stock and finally, finance and procurement.

Of course Etihad Towers represents more than just an iconic building and home, having created a raft of employment opportunities in Abu Dhabi. Foulds suggests that approximately 2,500 jobs will have been created in the office tower, once this is fully occupied, whilst the Jumeirah hotel employs approximately 950 staff. The Towers also employ about 350 management and service team members.

Managing such a vast development takes a co-ordinated approach, as Foulds explains:

“The Property Management role works in a pyramid effect, with ETRE PM at the top. We have two Chartered Surveyors with varied real estate disciplines that take responsibility for the day to day running of the entire development.

“We then employ a team of 30 individuals from Morganti for the Property Management and Facilities Management of Towers 2 to 5 and podiums. Tower 1 runs independently and is managed by Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, but their team still reports into ETRE on certain aspects as they hold a Management Agreement so the asset is still owned by His Highness.

“We then split down further to a variety of third party contractors such as Engineers, Security, Landscaping, Leasing and Marketing.

“For supply chain management we have set up a vast array of policies and procedures to allow for ‘Best of Practice’ working methods. Contracts are all open tender with individual scoring mechanisms and assessors. We continually assess current contracts and are always seeking the best in market whilst conscious that costs vary a great deal in this environment. Quality and Safety are paramount to the ethos at Etihad Towers and we run training sessions for all staff throughout the year and are continually looking at ways to improve efficiencies and reduce running costs.”

“Cleaning and maintenance are all run through specialist third party contracts. Some of the plant and machinery is of course still under warranty and we have a very good relationship with the contractor ACC. All the plant rooms sit under a maintenance schedule and are constantly checked for performance, wear and tear.

“Due to the harsh weather conditions we have in region, it is an area we take very seriously and are always looking at how technology can help, for example we are currently testing a new type of nano technology for the windows to not only protect the skin of the building against the heat and sand, but also aid in the cleaning of the windows.

“One of the main challenges is cleaning and maintaining the external façade of the 5 towers and podiums. We have partnered with a rope access specialist, Grako, who undertake the services using abseiling methods.”

Undeniably Etihad Towers is a striking symbol of an Emirate still making its mark on the global economic stage, as Foulds describes:

“Abu Dhabi is still in its infancy when compared to other capital cities across the world, but the desire and drive of the leadership is testament to what can be achieved in only a few years. We are currently 85 per cent occupied across the residential towers and expect to reach full occupancy before the end of 2013.

“The commercial office tower has also leased extremely well and we are currently 75 per cent leased and again expect to be at full occupation by the end of the year and we have maintained our target levels of rent.

“Our retail is fully leased and we had 70 per cent of the units signed prior to handover from the contractor. The hotel is performing extremely well in a very competitive market and I am pleased to say they have received a mass of International Awards, the most recent being the best Business Hotel in the Middle East.

“In 2000, His Highness Sheikh Suroor completed his first major mixed-use development, the ‘Abu Dhabi Trade Centre’. The project combined a mall, residences, commercial towers and a hotel.  Following the success of this development, His Highness Sheikh Suroor committed to providing Abu Dhabi a new mixed use development incorporating commercial office accommodation which would change the Abu Dhabi skyline forever and create a welcoming environment for people to work, live, stay and dine.  This commitment is what we know today as Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi.

“His Highness’s next project is already underway with an extension to the already hugely successful Abu Dhabi Trade Centre. Additionally we are in the final design stage of a new 250 key boutique hotel on Sa’adiyat Island that has one of the most impressive beach fronts in the Emirate,” he concludes.