Project Management of the Burj Al- Arab Construction

Modified: 8th Feb 2020
Wordcount: 2192 words

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Dubai’s economy has been built off the oil industry; most of the country’s wealth came from oil since its discovery in 1960.  Since the end of oil era was in sight and the country’s economy has to be diversified to keep it strong and support royals lifestyle.

Burj Al-Arab Project was conceived as a response to the looming end of oil era in Dubai by the then Crown Prince Sheik Mohammed in 1990. He was determined to position Dubai as World’s most exclusive luxury holiday destination and playground for the rich by diversification of Dubai’s economy through tourism and real estate.

Construction of the Island began in 1994, the island was to serve as the base for the 1,053 fts iconic structure. The project has a 6-year completion timeline and budget of 1 billion dollars. The hotel was billed to have its first set of Guests to celebrate the millennium. Hence, it was a race against time for the entire project team to deliver this iconic structure within the confines of triple constraint of time, scope and cost.


Burj Al- Arab is the third tallest luxury hotel in the world (1,053 fts), this gigantic edifice is in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The property was formerly named Dubai Chicago beach hotel.

This Masterpiece was constructed on Artificial Island of 280 meters to depict a sail raising from the river, it was built to resemble the billowing spinnaker sail of a J-class yacht. This was conceived by one of the greatest architect in modern history (Tom Wrights). 

Tom wrights when giving account of thoughts behind this innovative construction said the “The brief was that the client asked to create a building that would become an icon for Dubai rather like the: Sydney has its Opera House, USA has its Statue of Liberty, Egypt has its pyramids & Paris has its Eiffel Tower. We built the tower on its own island because it enhanced the iconic nature of the building, and that seemed logical because the building was inspired by the sail of a dhow, looking like the traditional Arabian sailing vessel’. – (Tom, Wrights 2000).

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The building was designed by WS Atkins & Partner with Tom Wright as the Chief Architect and by project managed by Canadian Engineer Rick Gregory, Anthony McCarter was the Structural Engineer, AL Habtoor Engineering handled the Concrete and Block works, Murray and Robert worked on Steel fabrication, Mike McNicholas was the Island Engineer, while the interior  of the iconic edifice was adorned by world renowned interior decorator, Ms. Kuan Chew of KCA International.


The project was phased into 5 distinct parts with assigned milestones to each of the phases. 

Phase 1: Project Initiation (Business Case and justification)

Phase 2: Project Planning (Vendor Selection, Mobilization and Resourcing (Human and Materials)

Phase 3: Project Execution (Construction of the Island and Hotel Building, Interior decoration)

Phase 4: Project Monitoring (Inspection)

Phase 5: Project closure (Project Handover and Acceptance by the Crown Prince)


Construction executed using a two-faced approach which was;

  1. Value Engineering and Constructability
  2. Actual Construction  


This approach was meant to address the complexity of the building construction. The approach is cost saving and makes building process seamless.


Actual construction of the project kicked off with the construction of Artificial Island which commenced in 1994, It took 3 years to reclaim the land from sea and less than 3 years to construct the building.

The Island rises 7 and a half meters above the waves and It was protected by concrete honeycomb shape solid blocks designed to reduce the effects of waves. This was the pioneering effort to use these designs of blocks in the Persian Gulf.


Protection of the island was a major concern for the Island Engineers as waves could break through it and impact the main structure.  There were heated debates as it was proposed that rock should be used to shield the structure from wave effect since this supported available technology.

However, the chief Architect opposed the proposal as it will contradict his idea of sail rising from water.

There were concerns on height of island then Island Engineer experimented with First sets of concrete blocks- specially designed to reduce impact of waves.  The efficiency of the concrete blocks was tested for 3 weeks and the result was positive.



Consortium of Engineers with innovative skills worked on construction of The Burj Al-Arab Project and each charged with unique responsibilities.

      Al Habtoor Engineering oversaw Labor and materials (Concrete and Block work).

      Murray and Roberts provided expertise for steel fabrication, logistics and erection.

      Fletcher being experienced in management of High rise constructions provided the Project manager


Considering the size of the project and number of Experts that were co-opted into the project, majority of potential risks were redistributed to companies that were equipped to handle them.

 The below were few of highlighted risks and were properly mitigated during construction.






Risk of being unable to hire sufficient Skilled labor to professionally execute the project within the Gulf Region. This could potentially impact Project delivery timeline of Dec 1999.

The Project Manager Sourced Skilled Professionals from outside the Gulf to meet the labor demands of   the project. More than 3,000 companies, 250 designers and 3,500 workers were hired globally for the Project. Work never ceased on the project 24 hours and 7 days a week for the entire project duration.


Problems with sourcing of high end materials required for the project with the region

Finest materials were sourced globally from USA, UK, Brazil, South Africa, Italy and India. Such Materials ranged from Steel, Marbles. Etc.


Cost Control 

Dedicated team was set up to ensure competitive pricing of materials and labors from suppliers throughout the project lifecycle. This helped in keeping the project within budget.


Scope creep was a major concern because of the size and budget of the project. Also, due to tastes and affluence of the royals who are the project sponsor. This risk was very imminent.

The Project management team ensured that the signed scope was implemented as documented and Due process was followed for implementation of change requests. Also, there was constant engagement with the sponsor to ensure that they are well informed of this risk to the overall delivery timeline.



Burj al Arab being a unique project with huge budget was funded through loan of $1.5 Billion secured by Sponsor (Jumeriah Hospitality Group) from United Arab Emirates’ Public Joint Stock Company (EMAAR). This Company is the largest Land and Property Development Company in the Gulf region. Jumeriah Hospitality Group is part of Dubai holding commercial operations group (DHCOG) and the Crown Prince Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the Vice President.

To ensure that funds were judiciously managed, Mr. Shyamal DAS was appointed as the financial Manager for the project.


To ensure that the project was successfully delivered, Construction Engineers Al Habtoor used the below project management software in addition to other standard project management ITTO as specified by PMBok.

      Microsoft Project

      Primavera for Planning and Scheduling.


The Project Management Firm played a vital role on the delivery of Burj Al Arab Hotel as they collaborated between consortium of experts hired to deliver the project. 

      They were also charged with the responsibility of Planning, Scheduling and break down of project activities. They were very proactive in identification of risks and mitigating the same.

      The Project Manager was able to effectively balance the Triple Constraint of Time, Scope and Cost.

      The Project Manager did a decent job by hiring the best minds for every aspect of the project.

      Project quality was rated A+ because of the unconventional engineering ingenuity brought to bare during the execution of the project.

      The team was able to manage their differences in ideas and opinions effectively to achieve desired outcome.


The project was criticized for having 39% of its total height non-occupiable space, this is due to the design of the building which focused more on Aesthetics than functionality of the entire structure. 


The Project Manager could have proposed a revision to the drawing before implementation to accommodate more occupiable space to ensure that project deliver best value to the sponsor and increasing return on investment.


Burj Al Arab Project was an Overall success because the project was a unique, first of its kind in the Persian Gulf and the very first building in the world to be constructed on an artificial Island. The Project was a milestone achievement in both engineering and Hospitality World. The Project was delivered on schedule, within budget and scope despite numerous constraints. The Project Manager did a fantastic job by being able to manage differences in ideas, culture and opinions effectively to achieve desired outcome and the sponsors were very excited with the execution and delivery.




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