Hyder Consulting: The legacy of Emirate Towers

August 20, 2013 in Tourism & Leisure

When His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum commissioned a design competition for the Emirates Towers project in 1996, the wheels were firmly set in motion for one of the most iconic buildings in the world, which would ultimately be delivered by internationally-acclaimed Hyder Consulting.

The London-based multi-national design and engineering consultancy operates across five geographical regions and was established back in 1857 – giving the project an air of security.

“We are one of the world’s longest-established engineering consultancies, with a history of projects spanning over 150 years,” states Ian Burns, Director, Property.

“Hyder Consulting began life as Freeman Fox & Sons, building an international reputation in the field of bridges and highways. The company was renamed as Hyder Consulting in 1996,” Burns recalls.

“Our portfolio of iconic projects including: London Bridge; Burj Khalifa,  Dubai; Raffles Hotel, Dubai; Melbourne CityLink and EastLink Tollways; Berlin Brandenburg Airport; Taiwan High Speed Rail; Sydney Harbour Bridge; Ski Dubai, Mall of the Emirates; The Cairo Wastewater Project; Hong Kong Greening Masterplan and Museum of Islamic Arts, Doha.”

Jumeirah_Emirates_Towers_-_Close-Up_ExteriorThe initial competition for the Emirates Towers was won by Canadian architect, Hazel Wong, working with Norr. The project was then awarded to Hyder Consulting Middle East Limited (then known as Acer Freeman Fox) for the Lead Consultant, Structural Engineer, Geotechnical Engineer and Civil Engineer role, with work commencing in June 1996 on what would prove a demanding project:

“The main challenge for the project team was to meet the aspirations of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in the design and delivery of this project,” says Burns.

“Other challenges included the ground conditions – Hyder’s geotechnical team, working closely with Professor Harry Poulos of Coffey and Partners, identified ground conditions through detailed investigation and testing, including full-scale pile testing under cyclical loads.

“Designing and constructing a tall building is never straight forward and the Emirates Towers project was the tallest building in Europe and the Middle East, and the 10th tallest in the world at the time of its opening. Hyder, with Turner and the other consultants, brought in world-class design expertise and construction experience.”

One of the challenges with tall buildings is to ensure stability of the building and Hyder’s engineers worked in collaboration with the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory (BLWTL), Ontario, Canada, to establish appropriate design parameters.

“Technology played a vital role across the whole project, including web-based technology – some of these technologies had never been employed before in the UAE until this project,” Burns describes.

The “soft opening” of the project took place in April, 2000, leaving an indelible legacy:

“Emirates Towers was the first super high-rise in the Middle East, and constituted a pivotal turning point for Hyder. It served to introduce our buildings capability into a market in which we had 30 years of solid experience, previously in major civil engineering works.

“Hyder’s high-rise property experts from Australia were relocated to Dubai for the duration of the Emirates Towers project. The appointment ultimately led to us engineering and supervising the construction of Burj Khalifa, now officially the World’s tallest super high-rise structure.  Hyder’s property portfolio has grown considerably in the UAE and our expertise in this region is unmatched. Our property sector continues to grow in other Gulf regions, where we have been present for over 50 years; in Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia,” Burns concludes.