Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Another skyscraper

New apartment block.
New views for new residents
And nowhere to park.

Parking in the middle of Sharjah city is a perennial problem. Until recently there was an area of undeveloped land just outside my office block where I could put the car while I spent all day driving a desk. I'm one of the arguably fortunate souls who has a window on one side of his cubicle, so I was able to cast the occasional glance to five floors below where the Hard of Parking were keen to demonstrate their skills.

All that is now history. A couple of months ago a wall of boards emblazoned with a contractor's name went up around the plot and I, along with about fifty other drivers, had to find alternative parking. I might have chosen to start coming to work by bicycle, except that this particular mode of transport has been banned by Sharjah Municipality.

Office entertainment has recently changed. Instead of watching the local driving style in a car park and also at a nearby T junction, I am currently being treated to the process of construction of a tower block. According to the project notice board it's going to be around ten storeys high. hardly a skyscraper, then, but sufficient to blot out the afternoon sun from my window. Perhaps I shouldn't complain. Situated at the far end of the office air conditioning duct, my afternoons are spent melting in the heat of direct sunlight. Attempts to increase the welly of the air conditioning result in teeth-chattering objections from the other side of the office. Perhaps construction of a sunshade will be of benefit to me. Now, on to the construction of this sun shade.

Phase 1: Excavation
Having evicted the last couple of parked cars, the contractor did nothing for a month. Then a machine, possibly a Case 721D, appeared and dug a two-metre deep hole the size, shape and location of the building's footprint. Unsurprisingly, the excavation hit the water table and a swamp soon appeared. Not to be outsmarted by mere water, the excavator operator drove around and around in the quagmire until he had succeeded in getting stuck up to the tops of the wheels. Enter a second excavator to pull the first one out.

Phase 2: Backfill
Rather a lot of lorry loads of gravel were then delivered and spread in a single two-metre thick layer, apparently to displace the water. Pumps? Dewatering? Wossat then? Compaction? Compaction consisted of a couple of guys with a Bomag 75 roller trundling noisily around the site for about a week.

Phase 3: Site Investigation
A percussion boring rig appeared and a couple of boreholes were sunk, with the inevitable donk-donk-donk disturbing my day. I should have thought that the site investigation would have been completed before construction started. Someone might have liked to discover the depth of the water table, but what would I know?

Phase 4: Piles
I have learned something. Drilling mud, bentonite, is in fact brown. No surprises there, except for me. I last encountered piling works in Portsmouth, England many years ago. As Pompey is constructed on and surrounded by chalk, all wet muddy slippery porridge found on a construction site is white or off-white. Brown mud? "It is not coming in Portsmouth, sir!"

Back to Sharjah. I should perhaps be grateful that owing to the proximity of other buildings, the chosen method of piling is bored cast in situ rather than driven. The construction noise is therefore limited to diesel horses and not the extremely loud DONK-DONK-DONK of a pile-driver.

It is gratifying to note that the steel fixers are putting reinforcement spacers on the whole length of the rebar cages. It is not unknown for spacers only to be fixed at the top where the inspector can see them once the reinforcement is down the hole. Huzzah for local workmanship! The spacers are little plastic wheels that are there to ensure that the steel doesn't poke out of the side of the pile after concreting, where it can go rusty.

SITE: Mud, mud everywhere

PILING RIG: Up close, and personnel

Edited on 4th May to add a couple of photos as requested. Sorry about the quality; the window really is filthy.

Phase 5: TBA
It's probably easy to anticipate what'll happen next. But it's not happened yet. More news when the structure starts to emerge from the mire that results from a piling rig, mobile cranes and a lot of very second-hand drilling mud.


nzm said...

An amusing post
re the construction next door
but we need photos!

Grumpy Goat said...

Point taken.

Unfortunately the only view is through a window that is both filthy and impossible to open. I shall see if an alternative vantage point is possible.

Sox said...

The prose, beautifully ritten (sic) And all I can see from UglyCamel Towers is the 'planes landing, and a vertically challenged tea boy running around every bleedin' day shouting "Hey boss, the plane, the plane"

It's all a Fantasy Island here.

nzm said...

UG - so who plays Mr Rorke, then?


moryarti said...

lol @ ugly camel .. :)

Sox said...

nzm, I have a white suit!!

nzm said...

GG - that's cool - the addition of the photos.

Every month you should take another one to record the progress.

What I have been surprised about is that the water table here is not that deep. All the construction sites around the marina are pumping considerable amounts of water out of them.


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