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Middle East Foundations Group F uelled by oil, Dubai is famous for ploughing its wealth into projects that will keep it going once that oil has dried up. It aspires to be a centre for tourism, to attract wealthy residents and whole industries ( notably media and IT) and along the way be a showcase for the finest and most dramatic buildings in the world. There's much in favour of this strategy, but quite a few things against it, one of which is the fact that Dubai is set in quite unforgiving surroundings, with sand very much in evidence in the landscape and underfoot. Not that Dubai is scared of taking on this environment- it has reclaimed land for the extraordinary ' palm' islands that have become some of the hottest real estate on the planet, and it is creating a skyline to eclipse any in America. The Dubai Metro, started in 2005, will be the world's longest driver- less automated mass transit system, and a first for the Middle East. September / October 09 www. bus- ex. com 93 tunnels Towearns d Superlatives soon run out when you try to describe the development that is going on in Dubai, where every building or development seems to set a record. Middle East Foundations Group is the company that prevents these remarkable buildings from sinking into the sand and its acting managing director Jose Thomas explained how to John O'Hanlon

94 www. bus- ex. com September / October 09 All this construction takes place on a less than ideal platform. Several metres of sand cover bedrock of sandstone that gets increasingly strong with depth, but it's never going to be granite. Nevertheless, it supports some remarkable skyscrapers, including the $ 4.1 billion Burj Dubai, the tallest structure on the planet. Burj Dubai is almost complete, and near it in the Business Bay area of the city, Burj Al Alam will soon be rising to become the tallest purely commercial building in this city of giants. The architects of these massive buildings and infrastructure projects get plenty of media attention, but one hears less often about arguably the most important contributor of all. Any building is only as good as its foundations, and before a single pillar or floor rises above the surface, adequate footings need to be in place to support the structure. What links the metro, the reclaimed islands and the skyscrapers? It is the prosaically- named Middle East Foundations Group ( MEFG), a company established in 1995 by its chairman Aidroos Hassan, and one that has since grown into the leading foundation contractor of the UAE. It provides a range of geotechnical services including pile foundations, barrette foundations, temporary ground improvement techniques, diaphragm walls, secant walls, permanent and temporary ground anchors, grouting and steel sheet piling. " Our extensive experience and engineering capabilities in the field of foundation engineering as well as post tensioning works has enabled us to deliver a unique system of post tensioned diaphragm walls," explains acting managing director, Jose Thomas. " We have implemented this system in a number of projects in Dubai, giving clients cost effective and efficient solutions in response to challenging requirements." If you visit the site of Burj Al Alam today you won't see much above ground, but the foundations are being laid at a steady pace, with a large amount of piling work currently in progress. MEFG was awarded the shoring and piling contract for the $ 1 billion project, says Thomas, even before the building contracts had been finalised. " There is no main contractor on board yet, but we are working with the consulting engineer to get the initial phase finished. Excavation is already complete and we are installing large diameter bored piles." More than 146 of the 613 piles required for the foundations of the pioneering project have already been installed; the piling work should be completed by January 2010 and the developer, Fortune Group, is confident that it will be able to meet its 2012 completion deadline. MEFG has 80 people working on this project site, says Thomas, and has deployed its high torque drilling rigs to install the concrete piles that are normally used in this terrain. " Driving steel piles is rarely an option in an increasingly built- up area because it would have too much impact on nearby structures and would also not be a feasible solution in these kind of subsoil conditions," he explains. The piling work on this job alone will consume more than 58,000 cubic metres of concrete and 5,000 tonnes of steel, and 180,000 man hours will be required to complete it. Then comes the easy part- erecting the building! Though Burj Al Alam will be the world's tallest office block at 1,673 feet high, it is dwarfed by the mixed commercial and residential Burj Dubai at 2,684 feet. MEFG was the lead contractor for the foundations for that too. " Burj Dubai required very sophisticated foundations, using 45,000 cubic metres of concrete," explains Thomas. " The tower stands on 192 piles, each 164 feet deep. Large boreholes were filled with viscous polymer slurry that is denser than water but lighter than concrete; when it is poured into the hole, the concrete displaces the slurry and hardens to form a foundation pile." Thomas himself undertook the role of project director on this job. " Installing the foundations for Burj Dubai was very challenging, but the ultimate experience," he recalls. Laying the foundations for the metro system was a little different but no less sophisticated and challenging. Massive piles up to diameters of 2.8 metres were