Jaffrey firm helps build ice rink in Dubai

A Jaffrey-based company that manufactures high-tech concrete placing equipment and associated machinery was recently called on to work on a project that had its share of challenges, to say the least: constructing an ice rink in the 100-plus-degree heat of Dubai.

The city on the Persian Gulf is fast becoming the center of the architectural world’s biggest and tallest buildings, many of them unique. Among the most famous is the Burj Dubai, or Dubai Tower, already listed as the world’s tallest free-standing structure, with 152 of a projected 164 stories already built and currently standing at 1,853 feet. At the base of Burj Dubai is the Dubai Mall, at 12.1 million square feet destined to be the largest mall in the world and featuring an Olympic-size ice skating rink.

Somero Enterprises Inc. – with headquarters in Jaffrey and manufacturing plant is in Michigan — was called on to help build the Dubai Mall Ice Rink by CIMCO, a maker of ice rinks for the National Hockey League and others. Somero and CIMCO recently partnered on an NHL rink for the New Jersey Devils hockey team.

But, as with everything in Dubai, this installation had special challenges to work around—namely the temperature.

On the day of the concrete pour in September, the ambient temperature in Dubai was 113 degrees Fahrenheit – much too hot for concrete to stay cool and wet for an adequate curing process, known as hydration.

Several methods were employed to combat some of the heat. The job was started early in the evening to take advantage of slightly cooler nighttime temperatures (95° F), the concrete was cooled using chilled water at the batching plant and kept workable during transit with crushed ice, and a 5.5-inch hose was used for pumping the concrete to minimize the heat of friction that a smaller-diameter hose would contribute to.

“They also had to run chilled water through the pipes to remove some of the heat,” said Charlie Noseworthy, technical services manager for international operations at CIMCO. “They were dealing with both the ambient heat as well as the normal heat in the hydration process, making it a challenging application.”

The minimum thickness for a rink of NHL standards is 200 millimeters, or eight inches of concrete to withstand large trucks that may drive on it. Within the concrete, almost 60,000 feet of piping used to freeze the ice were embedded in the mesh to within 40 to 45 millimeters from the top surface, extending throughout the 100-by-200-foot rink.

Eliminating the need for dedicated teams of men to rake the roughly placed concrete, Somero’s ride-on PowerRake was able to push and pull large piles of freshly poured concrete over the submerged mesh surface, working in front of the company’s CopperHead XD, which, with its laser screed, cut the concrete flat to its final grade and vibrated it smooth to the standard required by CIMCO. The process was repeated throughout the night, until 470 cubic yards — about 45 Redi-Mix trucks full — were screeded level.

“The old method of measuring the levelness by hand and doing center strip pours would have taken much longer, and been less accurate,” said Noseworthy. “Using a laser screed is far more level, far more precise and much faster.”

Besides the hose crew, the 20,000-square-foot rink was placed and screeded using only a four-man crew to operate the two machines. Normally, concrete pours in the United Arab Emirates use upwards of 15 men to complete such an area, said Noseworthy.

Speed and accuracy, essential in the production of the monolithic slabs required in ice rink construction, are also important factors for the many other construction projects taking place in Dubai.

To increase their productivity in placing and finishing the extensive concrete flooring in the Dubai Marina Mall complex, Dubai-based Al Jaber Engineering & Contracting purchased two Somero CopperHead XD 2.0 Laser Screeds and two Somero PowerRakes. The firm is currently building six hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in addition to five high-rise towers and an extension to the 150,000-square-meter Dubai Marina Mall Hotel.