Complex Made Simple

Innovation in project management: The backbone of a mega marvel

Dubai is gearing up to honour global champions of innovation.

There are thousands of innovative project managers working in various projects in Dubai and around the world to create architectural wonders. These exemplars deserve recognition and Dubai, as always, has taken the initiative.

The Hamdan Bin Mohammad Award for Innovation in Project Management was launched in 2015 to promote innovation in project management and to honour the best in this field locally, regionally and internationally.

Burj Khalifa: true testament

Millions flock to Dubai every year to see and experience Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower. Everyone knows the construction wonder was not built overnight, but very few have any idea about how difficult it was to complete.  Even pictures of the various construction stages, do not do it justice.

From the day the project was announced in 2003, thousands of talented individuals spent millions of working hours working to complete the towering edifice.

However, thanks to superb planning and management, the project, which could have taken more than a decade, was completed in less than seven years.

From the selection of consultants, contractors and suppliers to managing resources and ensuring speedy approvals from authorities, all played key roles in the success of the project.

Tower of innovations

The successful delivery of the tallest man-made structure in the world wouldn’t have been a reality had the men behind it not carried out everything from defining the project through to its closure in an innovative, orderly and flawless fashion.

Turner International LLC, which oversaw construction of a number of mega projects such as Taipei 101 and Makkah Royal Clock Tower, was appointed to handle project management for Burj Khalifa.

David Bradford, Turner’s main construction manager, helmed the project, while renowned American architect, Adrian Smith of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), designed the project. More than 25 companies were involved in the project.

Initially, the plan was to build a tower of 550 metres, but the target height was later increased to 750 meters. Further, in 2004, the developers decided to increase it to 828 meters, Burj Khalifa’s current height.

The dramatic increase was made possible because of the unique hexagonal core structure of the tower. Bill Baker of SOM developed the exceptional “buttressed core” system that allowed contractors to increase the height of the tower at a later stage of construction.

Experienced project managers split the project into packages that could be executed in parallel to speed up the assembly of myriad pieces shipped from all over the world.

Prefabrication and lean construction methods were efficiently used to reduce time for on-site tasks during the development.

A total of 26,000 window panels of 120 standard designs were used in the development, all of them prefabricated and assembled off-site, enabling the project team to install at least 175 panels per day.

Poured concrete was used for the walls of the lift shaft to speed up the process, resulting in the concrete cycle of an entire floor being finished in only three days.

The team also conducted a unique and extensive programme of wind tunnel tests to avoid any issues arising from wind forces and the resulting motion in the upper levels of the tower. When completed, the effect of wind was 30 per cent less than what was originally planned for.

Burj Khalifa not only owns several architectural records, but also holds the reputation of having new and futuristic ideas implemented during its development. New high-pressure pumps for concrete-pumping, a military-precision GPS system for jump formwork, diesel-powered self-climbing cranes and transformers located on floors throughout the building instead of in the base to avoid voltage drops are all stunning innovations that made the project a success.

Experts at the World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting Group say that the success mantra behind Burj Khalifa was maximising knowledge transfer, enabling excellent upfront planning, optimising logistics management, exploiting prefabrication to the full, reducing risks and facilitating collaboration with the technology providers and innovators.

This is how the dream of the visionary Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to build something the world would stand in awe of was realised.

Rewarding innovation

With the specific goal of rewarding such innovation, the Hamdan Bin Mohammad Award for Innovation in Project Management, named after the Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, carries a reward of AED2 million.

The first-of-its-kind award will have three categories: individual, team and organisation.

Under the individual category, the Innovative Project Manager Award and the Innovative PMO Manager Award carry a reward of $30,000 each.

The Innovative Project Manager Award will identify and recognise innovations in:

1. Benefit Realisation Management

2. Cost, Time and Scope Management

3. Procurement Management

4. Quality Management

5. Risk and Issue Management

6. Stakeholder, Culture and Change Management

For the Innovative PMO Manager Award, innovation areas include:  Cost, Time and Scope Management; Portfolio Strategy and Governance Management and Development of Standards, Methodologies, Processes.

Registration for this year’s awards began on March 8, with applications in process.