Abu Dhabi

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi school campus ... in the final stages.

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi school campus ... in the final stages.

Countdown to classes

September 2014

CONSTRUCTION work on Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, the leading school campus located on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, has entered the final stages, according to the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), the project developer.

TDIC, the master developer of major tourism, cultural and residential destinations in Abu Dhabi, is overseeing and monitoring all work from the construction, technical and progress aspects of the prestigious development along with project manager Aecom, a global provider of architecture, design, engineering and construction services.

Al Tafseer Contracting and General Maintenance Company was awarded the construction contract for Cranleigh Abu Dhabi in September last year. Work on the project started in the fourth quarter of 2013 and is on track for first stage opening in September and completion by December this year.

Speaking to Gulf Construction, Jassim Al Hammadi, director of buildings and infrastructure at TDIC, says work on Cranleigh is being undertaken in two phases.

The first phase will include the delivery of the junior and senior schools, a science building, staff accommodation and sporting facilities, which also include an indoor multiple-purpose gymnasium, a 25-m competition swimming pool and a 10-m junior pool. The school’s roadways and general infrastructure have also been completed and delivered.

“While the junior school, science building and the indoor sports centre will be delivered for the opening of the school this month for the Foundation Stage One to Year Nine school years, work on the remainder of Phase One will be completed by the end of the year,” says Al Hammadi.

The second phase will comprise the school’s much-anticipated high-quality boarding facilities, which will include separate buildings for male and female students. In addition, work is commencing on the campus’ two central grass sports fields.

“TDIC’s aim behind developing Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is to enrich Saadiyat’s residential communities as well as the wider Abu Dhabi community through offering a unique educational experience for their children. Featuring a broad academic curriculum with an emphasis on the individual, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi will also offer a wide range of opportunities for pupils to explore their talents and skills in the arts, sports and culture,” says Al Hammadi.

“Once fully opened, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi will be one of the largest school campuses in the emirate with open green spaces, extensive landscaping and an ambient environment stretching over seven hectares of land,” he adds.

Additionally, it will host co-educational facilities for more than 1,550 pupils, from three to 18 years of age, comprising separate junior and senior schools with each housing its own classrooms, faculty offices, administration offices, dining hall and library.

“The school – a sister campus of Cranleigh School, a leading UK independent school founded in 1865 – will also introduce a broad academic curriculum with an emphasis on the individual, while a wealth of opportunities will allow pupils to explore their full range of talents in the arts, sports and culture,” he says.

Also, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi will provide state-of-the-art IT facilities, including electronic tablets for its pupils. These will be complemented by a shared 650-seat auditorium, sports centre and outdoor fields with spacious recreational areas. The sporting facilities will include two grass pitches, an astroturf pitch, tennis courts, swimming pools and an indoor arena comprising two full-sized courts, which can be used for basketball, football, badminton, gymnasium, dance studio and drama suite.

Furthermore, the school’s masterplan features passive design strategies that revolve around the concept of a ‘village green’, with buildings located around the 1.4-hectare open landscape in the heart of the campus, where the school’s two outdoor sporting fields are also located. This is further enhanced through the creation of positive spaces throughout – in the form of busy plaza areas, courtyards, and the interplay of open view corridors with tightly planned ‘sikkhas’, or pathways.

“Vehicular access is kept broadly to the school’s perimeter with car and bus drop-off, parking, service and goods vehicles areas located away from the pedestrian centre of the campus,” says Al Hammadi.

The project comprises multiple buildings. The main buildings include the one-storeyed (G+1) junior school with a built-up area of 9,540 sq m, three-storey science block with a built-up area of 5,086 sq m, one-storey sports centre with a built-up area of 3,588 sq m which includes swimming pools, sports hall and dance studios, and the two-storey senior school building that has a built-up area of 13,190 sq m. In addition, there are housing staff apartments with a built-up area of 10,850 sq m, which have a basement, ground and three upper levels.

All the buildings sit on piled foundations, and feature slab on grade and concrete frames. The exteriors are a combination of exterior insulated finishing system (EIFS), aluminium and glazed façades.

The complex also boasts green credentials.

“Cranleigh Abu Dhabi was awarded a Two Pearl design rating certificate by the Urban Planning Council (UPC) as part of its Estidama Pearl building rating system. This was based on observation of the building materials and furniture used to ensure their compliance for acceptable levels of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) particularly for all sealants, adhesives and paints being used on site. In addition, all electronic equipment being procured will comply with acceptable energy efficiency standards,” says Al Hammadi.


Outstanding features

Among the striking features of the school is the auditorium, a brass-clad ‘jewel’ which is highly visible as a source of orientation and inspiration across the entire campus, according to Al Hammadi.

“The brass panels are perforated – the perforations being formed from apertures whose size and scale are taken directly from the common English brick. Specialist lighting will be incorporated which, coupled with the perforated nature of the skin, will allow the ‘jewel’ to change appearance as dusk descends,” he says.

The auditorium is docked into the main three-storey atrium around which the senior school is located, thus making it the main focus of all users of the building – staff, pupils, parents and visitors alike. The atrium provides the main foyer space for the auditorium on all three levels, providing a variety of seating and meeting areas. In turn, the atrium opens up to an external courtyard space, providing a green lung to the building which is designed as “an environment that will promote teaching and learning, reflection and contemplation, amenity and interaction and, critically, as a welcome source of natural ventilation and cooling,” says Al Hammadi.

Commenting on some of the difficult aspects of the project, Al Hammadi says: “Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is inherently a fast-track project, hence with the constricted time-frame, careful coordination and commitment is required from all project parties.

“Summer working hours are effectively reduced due to the heat, hence the challenge is to maintain productivity and keep actual progress on site in line with the planned progress agreed by all parties.”

Among other aspects, he says excavation around the site was required to connect cooling pipes from Cranleigh Abu Dhabi to the main district cooling plant. “This meant that access to site was restricted and resulted in an increased risk of timely completion. Excavation had to finish on time to enable the roads contractor to pave in time for proper and safe access for pupils when the school opens,” he says, adding that the issues were tackled by “effective and intense follow-up from the project management team; more frequent programme follow-up and meetings to keep track on progress and increased effort from all project parties to reach the target completion dates”.


Finishing & furnishing

Work on the finishing, furnishing and equipment is split between the main contractor, which is undertaking the fixed joinery and a dedicated school furnishing agent, which is co-ordinating the supply and delivery of the loose furnishings.



Externally, the landscape design has been considered carefully to enliven and integrate with the buildings and to enhance the whole environment of the campus. There are dedicated natural grass sports pitches for football, cricket and rugby as well as an all-weather multipurpose pitch for football and hockey and hard surface tennis courts. The junior school has a range of shaded external play areas with appropriate play equipment designed for particular age groups, while a range of different external spaces have been included around the senior school to cater to the differing needs of pupils and staff.

Other key players on the project include MLC as client’s commercial manager, GAJ as architect of note, Shepherd Gilmore as structural engineer, Hillson Moran as sustainability consultant, Cracknell as landscape architect, Parsons International as infrastructure consultant engineer, and Alpin as third-party commissioning agent.

TDIC, established in 2006 and fully owned by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, is a master developer of major tourism, cultural and residential destinations in Abu Dhabi. These include Saadiyat, a natural island that is a 10-minute drive from downtown Abu Dhabi featuring luxury resorts, championship beachfront golf courses, sophisticated residential communities, retail destinations and cultural institutions – designed by world-renowned Pritzker Prize-winning architects – such as Zayed National Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. TDIC is also developing Desert Islands, a heritage-based tourism destination composed of eight islands – Sir Bani Yas Island, the historical Dalma Island and the previously unexplored Discovery Islands.

The company has built a strong reputation among international industry players and has been awarded high investment grade ratings of A1, AA, and AA by three top credit rating agencies, Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, respectively.

“By creating investment partnerships and joint ventures, TDIC’s developments are helping to support the emirate’s evolution into a world-class destination for tourists, businesses and residents. It offers significant employment and vocational training opportunities for Emiratis keen to enhance their careers and professional qualifications,” Al Hammadi concludes.

More Stories