Some may have considered Ahmad Abdelrazaq’s late  2004 move from architect-engineer Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to contractor Samsung Corp. a missed opportunity. SOM had just issued the foundation package for the supertall Burj Dubai—and Abdelrazaq had been working on the design for a year. Why give up the chance to help engineer what was touted as being the world’s tallest building?

Perhaps because Samsung finally made Abdelrazaq an offer he could not refuse; to lead the Seoul-based contractor’s high-rise building and structural engineering group. “I had helped them expedite construction, through design, on a 93-story Seoul project, which went up very fast,” he says.

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    Burj Dubai Steel Spire Sprouts

    Abdelrazaq moved to Seoul not knowing he would end up working on the Burj Dubai from the other side of the fence. “I joined Samsung, and then we started bidding the burj,” says the engineer.

    Samsung, which also built one of the 452-m-tall Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, won the Dubai job on technical merit, say sources. It is not a surprise, considering the input of a 17-year veteran of SOM’s Chicago office. “The client knew me, the designer knew me, and Samsung knew me,” he says.

    During construction, Abdelrazaq functions as a liaison of sorts, bridging the two firms. It has turned out well. “I got the chance to wear both hats,” he says. “It was very good for the project, to make sure it was delivered to the highest technical quality.”

    With Abdelrazaq’s input, Samsung made several suggestions to expedite construction on the burj, including switching the outriggers from reinforced-concrete walls to concrete walls with embedded steel (see p. 26). And Abdelrazaq convinced Samsung to install a building monitoring system that he says is more comprehensive than any in the world.

    Having his former colleague at Samsung increased the level of trust between SOM and the general contractor, says William F. Baker, SOM’s structural partner. “It was helpful because Ahmad knows both corporate cultures,” he adds, calling Samsung a “pretty straight-up group.”

    At Samsung, Abdelrazaq’s team of 20 develops construction methodology for Samsung’s tall-building projects. He currently spends one week each month in Dubai and supports the burj project daily from Seoul.