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Site Visit: Yas Mall.

With Aldar's Yas Mall now more than 50% complete, Michael Fahy takes a walk around the mammoth site where more than 8,000 workers are currently working on finishing the building's structure.

When the merger terms between Abu Dhabi's two property development giants Aldar and Sorouh were finally announced last month, Yas Mall was held up as one of the key assets that the former was contributing to a combined pool of assets valued at $12.8bn.

It's easy to see why. Although the project had a somewhat difficult birth, it is still set to shake-up the emirate's retail sector when it opens next year, and Aldar clearly has premium international brands in its sights as tenants.

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The project, although at 235,00m2 is smaller than the 300,000m2 scheme initially envisaged, is impressive even in its half-built state.

Its central piazza with a huge space that will eventually be populated with fountains, a green wall and topped by a glass roof - and it already looks like the key feature it is meant to be.

This will be anchored by a pair of department stores on the East and West entrances to the site, while a 16,000m2 hypermarket sits underneath.

A 14-screen, 7,500m2 cinema and a 6,000m2 family entertainment centre also sit in a complex at a corner of the site. In total, the mall will contain around 450 stalls and kiosks.

"At the moment, we're about 50% through the construction phase with completion due in Q1 next year," says Aldar's retail development manager, Jonathan Brown. "That's the target."

For Aldar's senior project manager Simon Gregg, who has been working on the project since 2008, the appointment of Six Construct as main contractor in 2011 was a milestone which meant the rail work began on site.

Since then, he has been responsible for overseeing an army of staff on site which has swelled to its current level of around 8,000 workers as work on the building's structure nears its conclusion. Some 34 tower cranes have been used across the site, as well as 33 mobile cranes.

The building is spread over five levels. The centrepiece of the lower ground floor level is the 16,000m2 hypermarket, which has been let to French retailer Geant.

"From a technical point of view, we've got 13 substations located at the lower ground floor. The ETS - energy transfer station - is there as well.

"The main control room and the security control room are down in this area - so is all of the heart of the building - all the MEP and major plant rooms."

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Between the lower ground and ground floor levels s a 10m-high service level with a two-way road running around the entire mall to allow for ease of access to goods lifts for retailers.

This level also contains fire exists and corridors which, unusually, are suspended from the slab of the ground floor level above.

There are four car parks in the North West, North East, South East and South West corners.

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Brown says that a series of 'streets' lead directly from each of the car parks and from the East and West department stores into the heart of the mall, which will serve as the central gathering space.

He adds that there is scope for live events and other entertainments to be held in the space, which reaches 18m in height from the ground through to the first and second floors.

"It's about 40m x 40m on the ground floor with a glazed roofcovering, says Gregg. "The concrete frame in this area is already complete and the primary steelwork for the skylights is substantially complete. The subcontractor for the skylight has commenced."

Brown adds: "The idea behind this is that this will be the primary hub of the scheme. It's surrounded by F&B (food and beverage) units, with some retail units as well to create a mix.

"At one end of the square, we've got a feature lift with a waterfall and a green wall. The waterfall culminates in a pool at the bottom. On the opposite side we've got another water feature which is essentially circular in nature with pods and pop jets. And they can dance to music."

Within the square a number of live trees will be planted, and in specifying materials for the interior, Aldar has plumped for a resilient form of limestone as opposed to the marble which has been more commonly used in other premium malls around the region.

"It's supposed to give it a very urban and rustic feel," Brown adds.

The first part of the structures to complete will be the cinema and the family entertainment centre, which are directly linked to the North West car park.

The units are currently 95% and 90% complete respectively and external cladding is currently being erected. Both are set to be handed over to the occupiers by the end of March.

"With the department stores, we're about 90% complete and we're on programme. We hand over those on 2nd May. So those are going well," says Gregg.

"The rest of the structure on the ground floor is complete. We're 100% complete on the ground floor, the lower floor and the service level.

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"The first and second is what we're moving onto now, but the second floor around the town square is substantially complete."

The first floor contains more food and beverage units and a series of premium, double-height units arranged around the square.

"For the second floor, there's only access through the demise of tenants on the first floor, so they're essentially double-height units," explains Brown. "There's no mall at second floor level."

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The second floor space is therefore essentially taken by the double-height units surrounding the town square, the two anchor department stores and a mezzanine level used by the cinema for VIP screenings.

Part of the mall is taken up by a luxury retail pavilion, which also includes a luxury foodcourt areas where kitchens are again suspended from the slab on the floor above. The luxury area will also have VIP drop-off zones with separate waiting areas containing leather sofas, private bathrooms and other facilities.

Externally, the mall has a Welcome Pavilion which provides a direct link between the mall and the adjacent Ferrari World theme park. Brown also says that the links to the mall, which is serviced directly by bridges linking to both sides of the nearby Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway, "is probably the best of any mall that I'm aware of".

Access is also provided from the inner Yas Road via a tunnel and past the island's F1 track.

Brown added said Yas Mall's parking facilities are "way in excess of DoT (Department of Transport) requirements.

The mall will have four spaces per 100m2 of gross floor area, which equates to around 10,000 covered car parking spaces.

"Nobody should have a problem getting a space finding a space."

The car parks have been built using traditional post-tensioning, but in the main mall the company has used a system where pour strips of around 4m wide have been left out during the casting to eliminate the need for expansion joints within the main mall.

"We wait between 30-60 days and then we come back and cast those," says Gregg. "It's quite nice - it means you don't have any of these horrible movement joint cover strips within the mall.

"It's more of a construction challenge logistically but the end product will be better."

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Gregg said that progress is also underway on the massive amount of services which will be required for the building.

"We're looking to energise the first ring, No. 3, by March and the subsequent rings by May," he said.

"We've got 14,000 tonnes of coolth coming in from Tabreed. We're looking to have chilled water circulating on the primary side (of the building) within the next two weeks.

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"Then you have the main fire pump rooms and sprinkler tanks which we're looking to have active within the next 2-3 weeks so that we can hand over the retail units with sprinklers active."

The mall also has a total of 108 lifts, which are a mix of passenger, goods and service lifts.

Brown said that one feature of the design is that virtually all of the retail units will be served by goods lifts accessed from common areas at the rear of stores, which means that Aldar's fit-out of common areas and tenant fit-outs of units can each carry on unhindered by each other's workings.

In terms of lettings, few names have been publicly announced by Aldar as yet - including Geant, Victoria's Secret, Zara and The Cheesecake Factory. Brown says that lettings are "going quite well", however, and are certainly in line with where the developer would expect them to be a year ahead of the mall's opening.

"The most important thing is that we're on programme," says Brown. "If anything, we're actually a little bit early."

Green giant

Yas Mall is one of the largest projects aiming for a Pearl Two Rating under Estidama, which requires it to divert at least 70% of the waste it produces from landfill.

Alternative uses have had to be found for thousands of tonnes of concrete, wood, plastic and cardboard produced during construction.

Thus far, the volume of waste being diverted from landfill stands at 96.93% - or in volume terms, of the 44,860.2 tonnes of waste produced, 43,482.2 had been diverted from being dumped.

"Right now we're at 97% diverted waste from landfill, and that is a high number in any country, but here in the UAE it's actually quite amazing," says Tarik Tadmori, a sustainability consultant with AECOM.

By far the greatest volume of construction waste material has been concrete, with 39,936.4 tonnes accounting for approximately 89% of the total waste on site.

After the project was scaled back due to the global financial crisis there were a number of elements on the site - existing piles and pile caps - that needed to be demolished under the revised plan.

This has meant that the volume of waste produced is larger than what would normally be expected from a project of similar size.

While the waste management plan has been running since March 2011, the concrete waste was all produced in a relatively short time space of four months this year.

The rubble was stored before it was crushed with a mobile crusher, to be reused in the construction.

Uses have to be found for the other waste products, such as wood, plastic and cardboard, that have no conceivable use within a construction project.

"When we're designing, we study where we can use the waste that we're producing," explains Tadmori.

The intent, he says, is that the waste products from one industry - for example construction - are used in another industry.

Wood can be chipped and dyed, and used as a locally produced product for landscaping; cardboard can be turned into paper ; and there a number of options for plastic, including breaking it down into small pellets.

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Publication:Construction Week
Date:Feb 14, 2013
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