Fuelled by record prices of oil and the resulting high liquidity, the Middle East, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region in particular, has in recent years seen a significant increase in investment for both public and private infrastructure and development projects. The epicentre of this boom has been Dubai in the United Arab Emirates which, driven by the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has until very recently continued to experience unprecedented levels of construction. The high-profile projects in Dubai, including the iconic palm islands and the colossal Burj Dubai, require no further introduction to structural engineers throughout the world.
With a large proportion of fast-paced high-rise projects and in situ concrete the preferred method of construction throughout the region, the majority of building projects are specified with a posttensioned floor system. The post-tensioning business in the GCC, and in particular Dubai, is therefore one of the most competitive in the world.
The market is dominated by traditional procurement methods, typically placing a high burden of risk on contractors with stiff penalties for project overruns and rapidly increasing labour and material costs. Employed by main contractors on a design and build basis, post-tension sub-contractors and their specialist designers are positioned to suffer the most from both technical and contractual inadequacies. Combined with a highly competitive and variable consultant market, the additional burden on specialist post-tension designers can be significant. With such pressures, issues of quality (technical, material and construction) are prevalent.
This paper discusses some of the challenges facing the design of post-tensioning in Dubai, although many of the issues are applicable to the wider GCC region.
Paul J. Mullett, BEng(Hons) CEng MICE