Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
CTBUH, EMI Lead Emirates Tall-Building Study Trip
March 23-27, 2014
Georges Binder, CTBUH Belgium Country Representative
See Other CTBUH Tours & Visits
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Georges Binder, CTBUH Belgium Country Leader and Fellow and Managing Director, Buildings & Data SA, recently joined with Executive Master Immobilier (EMI) to conduct a study trip on tall buildings to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). A group of 19 people traveled from Brussels to Abu Dhabi and Dubai from March 23-27, visiting numerous tall buildings and related development and design teams along the way.

Founded by Christian Lasserre, the EMI Executive Master Immobilier is a real-estate MBA program, and is a joint effort from the Université Saint Louis (Brussels), ICHEC Brussels Business School (Brussels) and Université de Namur (Namur).

Abu Dhabi

On Day 1, the visit started at Aldar’s 381-meter World Trade Center Abu Dhabi, designed by Foster + Partners. The group received an insightful presentation by Patrick Bell, General Manager, World Trade Center Abu Dhabi, explaining the genesis of the mixed-use project comprising housing, offices, a retail mall, a souk, a hotel and a series of public squares, both enclosed and outdoor, erected on a 5-hectare site in the heart of the city. This was followed by a site visit to the WTC Mall and the WTC Souk, accompanied by Steven Webb, Director-Commercial Asset Management at Aldar.

Presentation of Patrick Bell, General Manager, World Trade Center Abu Dhabi Shams Abu Dhabi
The next visit was to another large-scale mixed-use ensemble, Shams Abu Dhabi, a master-planned development designed by Arquitectonica and developed by Aldar. Here, Hossam Eldin Elsouefi, Senior Project Manager at Aldar, joined Steven Webb to tour the project with the group. Shams consists of a series of towers, including the 292-meter Sky Tower and the 238-meter Sun Tower, organized around the Boutik mall.

The Sun/Sky visit was followed by a comprehensive tour of the Gate Towers, also in Shams Abu Dhabi, where the group had the opportunity to visit the extraordinary duplex penthouse apartments located in the skybridge atop the three 238-meter, 66-story towers.
From left to right: Georges Binder, Managing Director, Buildings & Data SA and CTBUH Belgium Country Representative; Gurjit Singh, Chief Development Officer, Aldar; Christian Lasserre, Founder, EMI Executive Master Immobilier HQ
Eventually, the group moved about 25 km away from the Abu Dhabi city center to HQ, the 110-meter circular tower where Aldar, the developer of the World Trade Center Abu Dhabi, Shams Abu Dhabi, and HQ is headquartered. Gurjit Singh, Chief Development Officer, Aldar Properties, gave a presentation placing all of the Aldar projects visited during the day into the context of the city of Abu Dhabi, including its long-term Abu Dhabi 2030 Plan.

As a participant succinctly said after the presentation: “It all became clear…”

Honorato Fernandes, Team Assistant of the Chief Development Officer at Aldar, guided the group from early morning until the late afternoon, affording all a smooth, comfortable and informative experience.

At the end of Day 1, the group visited the International Tower, a 27-story office building designed by Woods Bagot and located next to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. David Cockerton, Fund Manager at SinoGulf Investments, the developer of the project, presented the project while explaining how this type of Class-A project was still a rarity on the Abu Dhabi rental office market.


Day 2 began at Dubai’s landmark 828-meter Burj Khalifa. A warm welcome from Waseem Khan, Assistant Marketing Manager and Tariq Abdelkader, Marketing Executive at the Burj Khalifa, started the day.
Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building Burj Khalifa Club Lounge on Level 123. From left to right: Christian Lasserre, Founder, EMI Executive Master Immobilier; Robert Booth, CEO, Emaar Dubai Real Estate; Georges Binder, Managing Director, Buildings & Data SA and CTBUH Belgium Country Representative
After this, the group had the pleasure to meet with Robert Booth, CEO of Emaar Dubai Real Estate, the developer of the Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai, among a series of major projects.

Booth gave an overall presentation explaining how Burj Khalifa has been created as the center of a wider project – Downtown Dubai –  which itself was meant to become the center of Dubai, both psychologically and in terms of real estate. A series of “concentric rings of value” start from the Dubai Fountain, Booth said.

It was impossible to imagine a better setting for welcoming a tall buildings tour than the Level 123 Club Lounge, normally reserved for the sole use of the residents of the Burj Khalifa and users of the building’s Corporate Suites. But there was more, on even higher floors. Booth arranged for the group to view the special event suite located on the Burj’s top occupiable level, floor 154.
The group on level 123 at the Burj Khalifa
After leaving the Burj Khalifa, the group visited the Emaar Pavilion, the new Emaar sales center, which features a large-scale model of Downtown Dubai, including the new projects under progress.  Taking in the model, participants got a 3-D illustration of Booth’s “concentric rings of value” description as all of Downtown Dubai unfolded in miniature before them.

The mega-development is a 200-hectare, multi-use urban ensemble erected on former military lands. Started in 2004, it now contains 35,000 homes for 90,000 people and over 4,000 hotel rooms. It provides work for 75,000 people and is centered around the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building; the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest mall with over 1,200 shops with another 90,000 square-meter extension under construction; and a series of entertainment and cultural venues already completed or under progress: the Dubai Fountain, the Dubai Aquarium and the 2,000-seat opera house.

Continuing through the full-scale Downtown Dubai area, the group went to visit JLL, where Alan Robertson, CEO for the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), Annemie Ghielens, Chief Financial Officer MENA, and Graham Howat, Property Asset Management director MENA and Dana Salbak representing Craig Plumb, the Head of Research, who gave the group a general understanding of both the Abu Dhabi and Dubai office and residential markets, as well as a preview of what can be expected in the coming years. At the end of the day, some of the participants enjoyed a dinner at At.mosphere restaurant on the Burj Khalifa’s Level 122.

On Day 3, the group had the opportunity to visit a series of projects, starting with the 51-story PPM Conrad, a mixed-use tower designed by Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart and Stewart, comprising a hotel and offices in the upper levels. Noha Kadora, Marketing and Communication Specialist and Ali Saadi, TRB Sales Support Engineer, at KONE elevators, were kind enough to make the arrangements.

The visit was followed by a light lunch organized by KONE within the Al Barsha Park premises, a great setting in which to continue the conversations started during the morning visits.
Ali Saadi, TRB Sales Support Engineer, KONE answering questions about the 8.0 m/s KONE EcoDisc® MX40 machine atop the 51-story PPM Conrad in Dubai. Photo taken atop the Princess Tower, the world tallest residential building From left to right: Georges Binder and
Christian Lasserre
After lunch, the group moved in the direction of the Dubai Marina – another mega-urban development initiated by Emaar – where they visited the 413-meter Princess Tower, the world’s tallest residential tower, designed by Adnan Saffarini Engineering Consultants and the 307-meter Cayan Tower, the world’s tallest twisted tower, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the duo of supertall residential towers being the highlight of the day. The participants of the tour had to divide their attention between the KONE machinery atop these two buildings and the magnificent and dramatic views their lofty perches gave over the Dubai Marina and the neighboring cluster of supertall buildings.
Dubai Marina including the world's tallest residential tower, Princess Tower (tallest building in photo) Photo taken atop the Cayan Tower with the world's tallest residential building Princess Tower in the background
On Day 4, the KONE team brought the group to the Business Bay area for a visit to the 52-story U-Bora Tower, designed by Andrew Bromberg of Aedas. Mohammed Tareq Parvez, Facility Manager, Farnek Services LLC, gave a presentation of the U-Bora project while a representative of JLL energetically explained her approach to placing the U-Bora Tower on the leasing market.
Soon after leaving the U-Bora Tower, the group had the opportunity to visit the Rolex Tower, a 60-story office/residential mixed-use tower designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and developed by Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons. Ikram Shaikh, Property Manager, Asteco Property Management, gave the group a comprehensive tour of the Rolex Tower. The group had the opportunity to see the mechanical equipment located in the basement and in the double-height mechanical level located midway to the top of the tower, as well as the amenities level atop the separated low-rise garage building, which is equipped with a gym and swimming pool. The Rolex Tower is not the tallest building in any category nor does the building feature any twisting architecture. But the coherence of the well-detailed project makes the Rolex Tower, relatively unknown from far away, a crown jewel for the city of Dubai.
Rolex Tower
A visit to tall buildings in Dubai would not be complete without meeting with BESIX, a leading Belgian contractor and one of the contractors of the Burj Khalifa. Olivier Crasson, ‎Executive Vice President, Business Development for the Middle East at BESIX and Hans Beerlandt, CFO for the Middle East at BESIX, reviewed the major projects built by the company in recent years.

In summary, in a single trip, few people have probably ever had the opportunity to visit the top of the following projects:
-             the world’s highest skybridge, topping the three Gate Towers, Abu Dhabi
-             the world’s tallest twisted tower: Cayan Tower, Dubai
-             the world’s tallest residential tower: Princess Tower, Dubai
-             the world’s tallest building: Burj Khalifa, Dubai

At the end of the study trip tour to the UAE, the height of the projects visited was surpassed only by the quality of the presentations and the warm welcome provided by the hosts of the study group during four busy days.

Name Title Company
Pierre Badot Director DTZ (BE)
  Georges Binder Managing Director Buildings & Data sa (BE) / CTBUH Belgium Country Representative
  Anders Bohlke Program Manager EMI Executive Master Immobilier (BE)
  Sophie Coekelberghs Offices Observatory Brussels Public Regional Service-Urban Development (BE)
  Laurent Delgouffre Managing Director Sogerim (BE)
  Béranger Dumont Control Manager BPI sa (BE)
  Graham Edwards Managing Director Ko-Immo sarl (BE)
  Catherine Hansoul Social Real Estate Projects Coordinator Les Tournières scrlfs (BE)
  Alain Heremans Owner Concept Control sa (BE)
  Philippe Koelman Immobilière Le Lion (BE)
  Christian Lasserre Academic Director EMI Executive Master Immobilier (BE) / Managing Director, C.L.I. sa
  Cécile Mairesse Attachée de Faculté EMI Executive Master Immobilier (BE)
  Laurent Mertens Senior Associate Loyens & Loeff scrl (BE) and Lenaïc POLET
  Tynah Mulaba Mwaluke Responsible for Credit and Market Risk Caseis Bank (LU)
  Charlotte Mikolajczak Journalist La Libre Belgique (BE)
  Jacqueline Paulus Property Manager (Wallonia) Redevco Belgium (BE)
  Nathalie Renneboog Director (BE)
  Yann-Alexandre Tytgadt Project Director Pylos (LU)