The atmosphere in the Jebel Ali School construction site office is nothing short of jovial. We’re discussing the recent rain and how, although still in the process of being emptied by a throng of water tankers, the new 25 metre swimming pool has not only been well and truly tested, but can probably now be declared fully operational too!
We’re meeting with JAPS principal Jackie Parr, head of secondary Colette Doughty, project manager Carl Wamsley, advisor Glen Harris of Turn Key Solutions and construction manager Ehab Jamal to discuss the new Jebel Ali School and visit the construction site.
Harris has been working with the JAPS team since the idea of expansion first began, while his school project management experience is vast, we get the feeling this somewhat unusual project has him more than a little hooked.
Of course, our first question is the one on everyone’s lips right now, “will JAS be ready on time?”
The response from everyone is a resounding and unequivocal, ‘yes’.
Harris says, “you really need to know numbers of men, shifts, the team, the contractors before you can assess any build.”
He goes on to note that although right now there are 750 workmen on site working two shifts, the plan is to ramp up to 1000 for the next phase.
Out on the site we see even while the structures of the upper levels are still being formed, underneath, the ground floors of the Foundation and Primary are already getting interior block walls, AC fixtures and fittings and electrics.
Alec the building contractors have been working in the UAE for 17 years and are far from construction novices, although Wamsley notes JAS will be their first school.
The company has to date constructed; the Madinat Jumeirah, Mirdif City Centre, Marina Mall, Yas Links, Qasr Al Sarab Resort and Yas Water World, (the fastest built water park in the world.)
The school is set for a one-phase July completion, ready for students in August 2016.
JAS will offer Foundation through to post-16 education for 1,835 students, with 5 form entry, across four distinct educational ‘zones’. Much like Kent College, (also designed by architects, Broadway Malyan), the ‘elements’ of JAS will increase in size as students ascend the school, with Foundation offering ground floor plus one story, Primary ground plus two and the Secondary ground floor plus three storeys.
The fourth and final ‘zone’ is made up of the sports facilities, with a shaded 25 metre swimming pool, large multipurpose sports hall, boasting an unusual (and sure to be VERY popular) interior viewing deck with views out over the AstroTurf rugby fields.
While the buildings are situated close together, Parr says, “it has the Jebel Ali feel, with clusters of buildings, courtyards and meandering pathways in between.”
Set on a 34,000 square metre site area the JAS plot ‘feels’ large. The location between the soon to be extended Hessa Street and Emirates Road, means for now, there’s construction happening on almost all sides.
With the Remraam complex near completion and the vast Akoya development well under way it looks like JAS will have a large and immediate catchment area, literally right on its doorstep.
A little further afield, the still to be constructed Golf City lies only a few kilometres down the road, as does the newly completed Sustainable City and Layan communities.
As if that weren’t enough, JAS will also be easily accessible from the more established Arabian Ranches, Green Community, Motor City and once the Remraan/Hessa road is completed Jumeirah Golf Estates, Jumeirah Village Circle and Dubai Sports City are each literally only minutes away.
For Doughty and Parr, the build has been an exciting journey. “It’s unusual to be involved in everything, even down to the toilets, we really feel invested,” says Doughty, noting even the children currently at JAPS have been out to see the site and add their input too.
Wamsley says, “we’ve focused on the child’s experience, is it safe enough, designed well enough for kids, and the fact my son is going to join JAS makes me happy.”
The school will offer 23,000 square metres of built-up area giving over 11 square metres per person. The team say that with break-out areas so large and numerous, several visitors have commented on the potential to double the number of classrooms by simply removing them.
JAS will offer state-of-the-art food tech labs, music rooms, science labs, art rooms and Arabic language labs, three ICT rooms a research facility and a 642 seater auditorium cum lecture theatre.
Interestingly, Doughty says, “we’re not fitting out the sixth form yet, who knows in 5 years what sixth form teaching will look like, by waiting, we can fit it out to suit our students’ needs when the time comes.”
The school will also be piloting a new grey water system from Canada. Both High-tech and highly sustainable, the JAS ‘Bionest’ grey water recycling plant will resemble a modern take on the traditional Emirati lookout tower, while the real magic is actually happening below ground.
The plant will see all waste ‘water’ sanitized completely and recycled back on the extensive grounds and gardens.
Bionest and it's partner Khansaheb have already won the Emirates Green Building Council award for "Green building material / Product of the year".
The school's ‘green credentials,’ don’t stop there either, with solar panels to generate 100 percent of the school’s hot-water, full thermal insulation throughout, plus numerous outdoor classrooms and biodiverse gardening spaces around the school.
While there’s no denying there’s still much work to be done between now and August, we get the feeling the JAS team is not only driven but truly emotionally invested in their exciting build.
Even project manager Wamsley says he finds he is more driven since his son was accepted by JAS and will be transferring in September. He says each night when he gets home from the site he and his son talk about the day’s work at the site and their plans for ‘his’ new school.