Palm Jumairah Island, artificial island in Dubai

In the past two decades, there has been a paradigm shift in the construction of towns and cities. Unlike in the past, cities are being built at a faster pace with considerable attention to details, accuracy, and precision. One such architecture is the artificial island created along the Dubai coast known as the Jumairah Palm Island. The construction of the island commenced in August 2001 and the grand opening was officiated eight years later on 24th September 2009. The island is considered among the finest artificial human undertakings that contain luxury hotels, several residential apartments, villas, entertainment centers, modern traffic runways, bridges, service structures and underground tunnels. This academic postulation undertakes to describe how, when, where, size, civilization, and culture that built Palm Jumairah.

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When and Where, Size, the Civilization and the Culture that was Prevalent

Palm Jumairah Island is one of the most advanced and complex human architecture in the 21 millennium. The project began on 24th August 2001. The grand opening took place in 24th September 2009. Palm Jumairah was constructed along Dubai coastline, has a radius of over four by five kilometers, and is estimated to cover over 600 hectares of the Dubai coastal strip (Gahir, Radwanski &Tame 2006). The island is a magnificent construction taking up the shape of a palm tree. The exterior design consists of a trunk, 17 fronds, a crescent island crowning all the fronds, and long break-waterways. The island features modern architectural hotels, gardens, canal cove town, all inform of villas. The island also features one of the most splendid under-ways that form the basis of this writing.

Culture and Civilization

The inspiration and motivations behind the Palm Jumairah building come from cultural forces within. In the past, Dubai has been one of the largest landmass with huge oil reserves. However, with time, these natural resources seem to be receding at unprecedented rate. With an ever-growing population, government officials must have thought of alternative solutions to generate revenues, apart from oil reserves. As such, the Palm Jumairah, among several other artificial islands, was built as a strategic plan to generate tourism in Dubai. This happened at a time when there is an emergence of ambitious culture to develop the emirates to one of the largest region for tourism attraction in the world through economic diversification.

In addition, the construction of Palm Jumeirah comes amid an emergence of an ambitious culture that has achieved economic prosperity, hence the desire for luxurious living. United Arab Emirates is estimated to be one of the richest endowed with oil reserves in the world, from such backdrop; the country was able to accumulate enough wealth among its citizens making them adopt a life above the conventional one. Indeed typical of Juimairah, the island is a wash with modern day luxurious infrastructure, fashion, shopping malls and apartments, signaling an epitome of luxurious living.

Another possible motivation is the emergence of a culture leaning towards technology and ambitious development. Indeed the Palm Jumairah is substantiation of magnificence of technology. Unlike other wonders of the world that took many years to build, the Palm Jumairah took less than nine years, thanks to technology that enabled the Dutch consultancy firm to reclaim more than 35% of Dubai landmass in a record eight years. In addition, constructing an island out of sand could be an impossible undertaking without the latest technology. Further, given that the island was built along a coastline, issues related to atmospheric and environmental weather conditions such as winds, and storms must have been part of the challenges that were dealt with.

Further, Palm Jumairah was built as an artificial cultural symbol that would give Dubai a distinct landmark across the globe. The Palm Jumairah is crescent shaped with palm like fronds stretching from the trunk towards the crescent shape giving a unique architectural formation from other global landmarks.

How it was Built

The Palm Jumairah idea came from the Prince of Dubai who wished to construct something for his people that they would remember him for forever. Consultations at preliminary stages involved experts on land reclamation. From this point, the Dutch consultancy firm was responsible for reclaiming more than 35% of the landmass (Gahir, et al (2006). Another consultation before embarking on real construction concerned the question of how an island envisaged to accommodate more than 1000 residents would rest on sand without endangering the lives of people. It emerged that solutions to this challenge were complex, however, with the existing modern technology work commenced on 24th August 2001. The basis of this paper is to examine the efforts that went into this construction with specific attention to underground constructions, which claimed the biggest percentage of the construction. The underground constructions involved one of the largest and latest technologies in the modern era, without which this construction would not have been successful.

The constructor began by constructing two service tunnels accomplished by the latest technology known as micro tunneling. This technology enabled the constructors to tunnel over one kilometer six traffic lane tunnel. The six traffic tunnels were to connect to other adjacent artificial islands. Other constructions that followed include underground sewerage treatment plant and an underground village center.

The initial construction involved dumping and dredging to reclaim soil. Here soil was dredged up to the preferred levels of elevations, which was between +3.5 m and +4.2 m (Jong, Lindo, Saeed, Vrijhof, 2008). The initial reclamation took place on the Eastern and Western service tunnels. The first contract was awarded to Nakheeel constructions to work on all the service and utility lanes on the island. The purpose of these lanes was to facilitate transport from the Jumairah Island to the mainland. Here, Nakheel was required to construct lanes on the right and left side of the Jumairah Island also known as frond D and frond M.

Later Al Naboodah Engineering LLC provided alternative methods solution of constructing the tunnel, preferring circular tunneling using micro tunneling technology; instead of submerse tube construction tunnel method. Al Naboodah Engineering LLC method proved more useful as the project management was able to save up $ 5 million as well as timesavings.

Henceforth, the construction was dubbed design and build project implying that the design and construction was to be under the supervision and direction of Al Naboodah Engineering LLC.  The contractors offered to construct the Western and Eastern launching shafts, eastern and western tunnels as well as two launching shafts and two receiving shafts. Both the receiving shafts measuring 9 m and a depth of 20 m and launching shafts measuring 12 meters and 27 meters in depth were circular in shape (Jong, et al 2008). The contractor located the launching shafts on fronds D and M of the Jumairah Island, while the receiving shafts were located on the opposite side of the island. The launching and receiving shafts were placed at 740 meters apart.

The technology involved in the excavation of both the receiving and launching shafts was the shoring system comprising of bored secant piles. Here, the piles were drilled to about 29 meters deep to accommodate launching shafts while the piles for receiving shafts were 22 meters deep. In order for the piles to accommodate both shafts, they were required to have a diameter of 1 meter; drilled using center-to-center spacing of about 0.85 meters (Jong, et al 2008). The excavation of the shaft marked the end of the shoring system. However, at every excavation stage, a single submerged pump was used for every dredging shaft.

After the excavation of both shafts, the constructors installed waterproof systems while the base slab was covered with cement. What followed was the installation of main pipe jacking stations in the launching shafts. Further, the receiving shafts were cemented.  The results is that all the service tunnels had external diameters of three meters while the inner diameter was 2.4 meters. All the service tunnels had a vertical arc towards the end to lessen the depth of the receiving beam.

The engineers also used a tunnel boring machines to build the tunnels. The island is made up of two tunnels measuring six meters down from the sea level.   Work on the first tunnel began on august 2005, and it measured 760 meters wide (Jong, et al 2008). The second tunnel was accomplished successfully on April 2006 after which both tunnels were sealed and necessary exterior cabling support system was applied. The support cabling was able to handle up to 132kv of cables. After cabling, engineers mounted pre-cast roof slab to avoid any future deformations.

The vehicle Tunnel

The entire vehicle tunnels were constructed using a method called cofferdam construction method. This technique involves construction of cofferdams around the tunnels to act as shoring systems. The shoring system is important in pumping water outside the cofferdam. This process is important in readying the seabed for the final base slab that holds the tunnel in line.   The cofferdam measures 2.4 kilometers and it lay around the tunnel. The engineers then laid steel sheets measuring SX27 between the cofferdam body to prevent water seepage that might come from the dredging material (Gahir, et al (2008).   According to construction estimates, the cofferdam took 30% of the overall construction material.

The cofferdam was then drained off water to +1 to -23m, which means that over 4,350,000 m3 was drained off the cofferdam within 45 days (Gahir, et al, 2008). All the under tunnel preparation were completed towards the end of 2007, and in most cases engineers used a technique known as cut and cover.

Sewage Treatment Plant

Perhaps another undertaking that involved current technology in construction is the sewage treatment system at the island. The sewerage treatment plant measured 17 by 76 meters. This contract was awarded to Hyder international and Al Naboodah L.L.C. The sewerage plant consisted of a diaphragm wall measuring 0.9 by 25 meters wide and 7 meters deep into the ground. Heavy excavators consisting of back shovels and rock cutters drilled the hole downwards. After the hole was drilled, drilling of piles measuring about 8×8 meters followed. The piles are made in such away that they can resist water pressure to very high levels. The wall was reinforced with goetextile and water resistant PVC Geomebrane. According to Gahir, et al (2008), the final lining of the concrete liner measured 0.5 meters consisting of a waterproof liner and concrete liner. To endure durability, engineers used grade B45 concrete. The final phase consisted of casting the interiors, leveling the slabs and installing sewerage treatment equipments.

Village Center Underpass

The village underpass was the fourth structure to be constructed on the island.  The underpass structure is built next to the village residence center. The underpass involves construction of two single traffic lanes to enable u-turns and pedestrian walkways between the tunnels. The main contractors of this project were Al Naboodah L.L.C., which undertook the construction as well as final design.

The center underpass and pedestrian walkways were constructed as doom shaped culverts inserted below the ground. The roof of the culverts was then covered by concrete and lowered 1 meter below the ground. The underpass is rectangular shaped with a width of 7 meters and height of 5.5 meters. On the other hand, the base slab of the underpass measured 1.0 in thickness, while the walls measured 0.75 in thickness. The pedestrian walkways consist of an inner wall measuring 5.7 w x 2.7 h (Jong et al, 2008). The construction of the underpass and pedestrian walkways was accomplished using state of art 3D finite element technology. This technology takes into consideration various factors such as the interaction between soil structures.   On the other hand, culverts were constructed using a technology known as open cut technology.

The Basic Materials Used

The Dubai Palm Jumairah Island is a unique construction owing to its emphasis on using natural construction materials. Specifically, the island is made from rock, sand, concrete, with the support of steel and iron. According to Gahir, et al (2006), the Jumaireh Island was constructed using approximately 94,000,000 cubic meters of sand. The island also consumed over 700, 000 meters of steel, over 50 million metric tone of concrete and 7 million metric tones of rock (Jong et al, 2008).

For instance, materials like sand were used to fill into 10.5-meter deep excavated seabed using dredgers. Another three meter elevation above sea level was achieved by a technique known as rain bowing. This technique involves filling sand over the rising island. Another important material was calcareous sand, which was essentially used for reclaiming land to the desired levels. The natural rocks were used to achieve a curved effect, which is the main characteristic of the island. The curve effect is also important in giving the island a natural reef effect, which encourages sea life. The Dutch company Van Oord did much of the reclamation. The total expenditure of the material is estimated at $12.3 billion (Jong et al 2008).

The Methods, Tools or Equipment used

One of the incredible techniques used to construct the islands is the Krystol waterproofing system. The reason for the contractor to choose this method is because of it‘s permanent ability especially when mixed with concrete.   This technique is preferred in large-scale constructions because unlike conventional waterproofing technique, it is able to remain permanent for a long time without being affected by corrosive elements. In addition, Krystol technique alters the composition of the concrete to become water resistant, which provides guaranteed water resistant structures for a very long time.

Another important method that was used successful was the seismic mitigation technique, which was used to ensure Palm tree growth and development within sand to ensure that they withstand the tectonic forces. Together with vibro compaction, the island achieved ability to withstand seismic risks. Further, these methods helped in mitigating liquefaction challenges. Challenges related to liquefaction are particularly pertinent since it leads to weakening of the support systems through seepage. However, through Vibro compaction, the problem was reduced significantly since the technique solidifies loose sand hence increasing bearing capacity. The methods also consolidated sand settlement resulting in stronger material that can withstand seismic forces.

Further, flots were important in carrying vibrocompaction equipments to as low depths as 44 meters. This method achieved a relative density of about 85%. In addition, Pennine vibroflots were useful equipments capable of condensing sand to levels that were required. The largest vibroflot used in the construction of the island was a BD400, the largest at the time to be found in the world. The main advantage of such vibroflot size is to capitalize on reliability while lowering operational costs. Such equipment achieved greater widths and spacing due to its greater power capabilities.

From the above literatures, critics have endeavored to calculate the total number of tools and equipments. According to Jong et al, (2008) the total number of equipments involved include, 55 barges, 75 tugboats, 30 cranes, 300 heavy truck machines, 34 floating cranes, 110 dredgers and 134 concrete mixers.

The Labor Force at the Time

More than 40,000 labor force was involved in the construction of Palm Jumaireh island. This figure is all-inclusive of the senior most employees to the least. This large labor follows a huge demand of different expertise that was needed to accomplish the project. In addition, manual labor force was readily available due to an influx of foreign emigrants to Dubai. Foreign workers especially from eastern Asia including countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Philippines, provided a large percentage of manual labor. Sri Lanka made-up the larger percent of the work force. In some cases, expertise labor was provided from European countries such as Finland, Britain and the USA.

Gahir, et al, (2008) estimated that approximately 5000 workers took part in the construction of specific structures, for instance, more than 3,000 workers participated in the construction of underground foundation and passageways, another ten thousand were involved in the reclamation, more than 50000 in daily constructions of villas, hotels, apartments, roads maintenance and security.
Suppose it was Built Today?

Perhaps the best conclusion is to envisage some suppositions that the Palm Jumairah is to be built today. Retrospectively, the artificial island was built a few years ago between 2001 to 2009; this is a difference of three years from its inception to current date. Now, similar artificial islands even on a larger scale capable of holding one million residents are ongoing. From this perspective therefore, supposing that the island would be built today, arguably it would be much bigger than its current size. This is because; the Palm Jumaireh seemed to be an incubation of even a bigger idea that was apparently in the offing. The reason for this projection is that similar artificial islands such as Palm Deira are on construction and according to official estimates, the island will be capable of holding over one million residents, as opposed to Palm Jumaireh that has a capacity of one thousand residents only.

Although just built, technological comparisons with the ongoing similar but larger artificial islands show that they are still using the same technology. This implies that if the Jumaireh was built today, it would have used the same technology used between 2001 to 2009. The main ingredients used in building the palm Jumaireh was sand, rock, steel and concrete. Well, nothing can further from that in enacting any other magnificent artificial island in current times.

Much of technological methods used three years ago are still in place such as tunneling, dredging and shoring. The machines used for this purposes are still in place however, the use of Robotics in deep-sea shoring and dredging at Palm Deira has resounded new technological headway that Palm Jumairah would have used. Robotics are mechanically conditioned to perform specific tasks in the same way human can do.   Therefore, the amount of human labor would significantly reduce from a previous 40,000 workers to a lesser figure.

Given that there are increased environmental awareness concerns both locally and internationally than before, perhaps Palm Jumairah would have taken some of these concerns into considerations. For instance, there is increasing concerns about global warming and environmental degradation due to increased human activities on nature. However, given that there are even larger islands on construction beats the logic of this argument, that such constructions do not have either any environmental impact or such impacts have been taken into consideration and amiable environmental solutions put into place.




Gahir J, Radwanski R, Tamer AH. (2006). Design and Construction Challenges of Sub-Sea          Directional Drilled Crossings on the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai: Tunneling and Underground          Space Technology. Retrieved from:               3&_user=18704&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_sea            rchStrId=1126410491&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C00000. Retrieved on Nov 13,        2013.

Stive R.K.H. (2010) Low Crest Breakwater Design For Dubai Islands Projects. Netherlands:        Royal   Haskoning, Maritime Division. Retrieved from pdf. Retrieved on Nov 13, 2013.

Jong R.E, Lindo MH, Saeed S.A, Vrijhof J. (2003). Execution Methodology for Reclamation                             Works: Palm    Island. Retrieved from: http://www.terra- et-           aqua_nr92_03.pdf. Retrieved on Nov 13, 2013

Appendix: Palm Jumairah Aerial View Pictures

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