Sunday, July 01, 2007

Dubai's Palm Islands

I saw an interesting National Geographic Channel documentary on the construction of the first Palm Island, the Palm Jumeirah, off the coast of Dubai.

Palm Jumeriah is a man made, 3 1/2 mile diameter island in the shape of a palm tree with multiple fronds. It was made entirely from natural materials (i.e. rocks and sand). The purpose was to build an island to increase the shoreline of Dubai that would be used for living, relaxation and tourism. The documentary described the many challenges encountered by the engineers during construction.

They had to find the right materials and move them to the right place to create the palm shape in the ocean. They used satellite images to verify the shape during construction. You can see the original island (and now a second) on satellite images at Google maps. They had to coordinate construction of the breakwater and fronds of the island, and had to alter the breakwater to allow water movement through the fronds to prevent stagnation.

Once built, there were challenges to stabilize the sand to prevent liquifaction during earthquakes that would destroy the island and any structures built there. There are plans for hundreds of villas, shopping malls, and 22 hotels. Also, there were unanticipated consequences of erosion, both for the island and for the original coastline. Engineers are having to do Palm island maintenance (remove sand from some spots and move to others) to maintain the shape because of waves and ocean currents. The shore currents that maintained Dubai's straight coastline were altered by the huge island. The shore in some 'upstream' areas of the current gained sand while areas past the Palm island were losing sand at the rate of 15 feet per year! Once again, constant maintenance is needed to protect the original beaches.

Thinking about buying or investing in the island? You can read more about the Palm Islands here and Palm Jumeirah here. Here is the official web site for the three palm island projects. With this construction experience, what's next? Read about Dubai's larger scale project, The World.

Interesting from an engineering view, it's a reminder of how major alterations to the environment have many unintended consequences.


Amina said...

What can I say about Palm Island?
It is a masterpiece of our generation. Engineer technologies or whatever is it has developed to such levels, so people are able to create artificial islands!! I still cannot realize it!!!
Now only Dubai property
have in its collection such islands, but before we could say Jack Robinson such projects will be build on different parts of the world.

Earl said...

Thanks for the comment!