Home Articles New KINGDOM/JEDDAH TOWER Engineering Feat Par Excellence: Limitlessly Defying Limits

KINGDOM/JEDDAH TOWER Engineering Feat Par Excellence: Limitlessly Defying Limits


“The tower evokes a bundle of leaves shooting up from the ground a burst of new life that heralds more growth all around it. This symbolizes the tower as a catalyst for increased development around it.”
Peter Weismantle & Alejandro Stochetti, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

Kingdom Tower is an Inspiring design engineering feat that has set out to defy all set limits. Also because it brings with it newness in every respect: New design, new structures, new materials and new test methods. (Figure 1)


Figure 1: The proposed tower is estimated to cost $1.23bn and would be 568ft (173metres) taller than Dubai's Burj Khalifa tower, which is currently the world's tallest building (pictured)
Figure 1: The proposed tower is estimated to cost $1.23bn and would be 568ft (173metres) taller than
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa tower, which is currently the world’s tallest building (pictured)

All these make Kingdom Tower evolution indeed an interesting story in the ever increasing quest for not just merely going higher but of stretching the limits in every area of design compelling innovation to become the key for aspiring to set ‘each new normal’!

Here outlined is a narrative of how ideas fructify into innovative developments scaling new scales of futuristic design.

The independent evolution of the thought in a designer’s mind, the emergence of a need in a client’s heart and the convergence of both giving birth to what got the names of ‘Mile High Tower, Kingdom Tower’, Jeddah Tower but in short it could rightly be said to be.

‘That Building which has gone where no building has ever gone before! – Beyond 1,000 meters!

The convergence story goes thus:

The Thought – During the spring of 2009, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture began working on a prototype of a mile high tower. With an eye to the future, AS+GG’s interest was to understand the potential and challenges of creating a tower that was substantially higher than the tallest manmade structure at that time, the 828 meter Burj Khalifa.

The questions were: How do we get to a substantially taller building? Is there a new typology? What about elevators? What about structure? And, above all, what about daily life in such a building?

A Client’s dream wish – The exercise turned out to be not merely theoretical. AS+GG was then invited to participate in a competition to design the world’s new tallest tower at a height of at least one kilometer. The location was Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and it would be the centerpiece of a master plan that would cover an area of 5.3 million sqm. Other international architectural firms, including Foster + Partners, Pelli Clarke Pelli, Kohn Pedersen Fox, Pickard Chilton and SOM too participated. The competition brief asked teams to design a multi-use tower serving a five-star hotel, serviced apartments, and office and residential units.

The Convergence – Kingdom Tower is born!



The Proposed design would take Kingdom Tower to the highest position in CTBUH’s three categories for maximum heights as:

Firstly, it would have the highest occupied floor (currently, Burj Khalifa Level 154 at 584.5 meters).

Secondly, it would achieve the highest architectural top (currently Burj Khalifa at elevation 828 meters).

Lastly, it should have the highest tip (also currently Burj Khalifa at a height of 829.8 meters).

The design competition had an im-portant catch in brief – to be chosen victor’ just height achievement was not enough but one of the major criteria for the winning scheme was the tower’s “construc-tability potential and efficiency.”

The architects Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill took credit with their competition win for their design for this amazing iconic project. The process of building is creating the history of the most popular skyscraper irrespective of either of those three names. This is the most popular tower in the world of architecture and is expected to be opened as a finished project in 2020.

Designing the world’s tallest building is by its very nature an unparalleled task. It demands an open mind equipped to zero down on the best fit optimal solution in every area of project management unraveling the best future perfect design processes, materials and technologies. Every professional team in the endeavor have their hands a golden opportunity to make new breakthroughs. The architects and consultants with contractor put together following timelines can break into new frontiers , well beyond the current norm. (See Plate 1, 2)


Though since the 1960s engineers have mostly used tubular designs innovated by Bangladeshi-American structural engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan to build skyscrapers, innovations have been prevalent with every new challenge of height and service. Fazlur Rahman Khan’s engineering principle forms the starting point to make buildings structurally more efficient and stronger while reducing material use thus keeping costs control while ensuring design feasibility for buildings to touch greater heights.

Some illustrious examples are

Petronas Tower Kuala Lumpur, Jin Mao Tower Shanghai, and Burj Khalifa Dubai bringing betterment to these cities and states. Thus Kingdom Tower and those to follow will catalyze their local and regio-nal environments, through business and jobs opportunities multiplying manifold.

Kingdom Tower could urbanize communities transformation thereby also restrict suburban sprawl.

This narrative puts in perspective the structure, sequence, and process that gave shape to the Kingdom Tower design competition winning scheme by addressing the major design decisions with briefly visiting the reasons thereof. And briefs the project construction take off that portrays on ground progress of the design feats.

The design process channelizes the cultural, site, and temporal forces in order to create the Kingdom Tower, in line with sensitivities of client’s culture, geography, current moment in the Kingdom’s history, architecture and engineering. This meant a novel blend of culture and development.

Kingdom Tower’s overall aesthetic design was inspired by nature and resem-bles a hardy shoot resistant to the harsh desert surroundings. Adrian Smith + Gill Gordon Architecture, the designer Gill, describes the tower as a sleek, “three-petal” form inspired by the folded fronts of young desert plant growth. “The way the fronds sprout upward from the ground as a single form, then start separating from each other at the top, is an analogy of new growth fused with technology.” “The tower evokes a bundle of leaves shooting up from the ground a burst of new life that he-ralds more growth around it,” Smith said.

Jeddah’s proximity to the Islamic holy city of Mecca has been an influence on design features. The southeast leg of the tower’s tripodal base is in direct alignment with the Ka’ba in Mecca, Islam’s holiest site.“We envision Kingdom Tower as an iconic new marker of Jeddah’s historic importance as the traditional gateway to the holy city of Mecca,” Mr. Al Maiman said.

The three-petal footprint design is ideal for residential units, and the tapering wings meld into an aerodynamic shape which reduces structural loading from wind vortex shedding.

The Design – Competition to Execution

The Kingdom Tower design team had diligently set out to effectively address every fundamental system (inside-out) with every challenge that will crop up in the design of this exclusive super tall building bound to be the world’s highest Tower. These aspects would include foundations/geotechnical engineering, the exterior wall, structure, vertical circulation systems, fire and life safety, wind engineering, MEP systems, and others.

With Kingdom Tower, the goal was to advance the innovations of Burj Khalifa and discover what could be done better. The team knew what worked perfectly on Burj, and could be accounted in the design.

Why Y? This is why

With the design process on, designers to implementers, all had now been man-dated to ‘question why and answer why’. The Wind challenge of supertall was critical.

The first challenge was to build extremely tall without adding too much area to the final building.

The competition brief had called for 290,000 sqm gross floor area (GFA) for the tower and podium. However as simply extruded square plan would not reach any significant height going from square to circle to triangular form improved result. The real takeoff happened by the tapering of the shapes which extended the potential height of the tower. Thus the tapered “Y” shaped plan was chosen. Some more leverage was derived for reaching greater heights, with the carving applied at the balcony areas removed GFA from typical floors. Such and other design decisions enabled Jeddah Economic Company, to get high- performance design.

The Y-shaped plan forming the base of the design offered several advantages. A 120 degree separation between wings allows for views to be expansive but not directed toward adjacent units, thus maintaining privacy.

Y-shaped plans provide a higher ratio of exterior wall to an internal area, maximizing the residential units’ views and exposure to light (see Figure 2a).

Figure 2 a. Kingdom Tower Y-shaped plana
Figure 2 a. Kingdom Tower Y-shaped plana

The “Y” shape also,

– Allows spreading of the base of the tower without increasing the depth of the Lease span. This means that the building can still maintain a reasonable 10:1 height to width ratio without having a large amount of unusable deep internal space.
– Helps develop a clean and simple structural diagram in which every element participates in both gravity and lateral support. If one considers the shape as being similar to a wide flange beam with its mass of structural material at the end of each wing (the “flanges”) where it is most optimally placed, connected by shear walls (the “webs”) forming the corridor walls and core, the structural efficiency is maximized by placing the material where it will do the best in resisting wind induced bending loads.
The triangular core thus formed by the shear walls is also an optimized shape, very good at resisting wind induced torsion.
– Lastly, by its unique shaped plan and structure allows for certain serendipitous results. Having three legs, the plan naturally has at least three stairs, creating an immediate redundancy. With its continuous, reinforced concrete shear walls, those stairs are completely enclosed within a very ro-bust and secure environment, again enhancing that aspect of the life safety system of the tower.

Furthermore, these very thick shear walls provide more than the minimum required fire separation and are a very effective sound control mechanism between public corridors and private residential spaces (see Figure 2).


Figure 2b. Kingdom Tower Y-shaped configuration - On Site
Figure 2b. Kingdom Tower Y-shaped configuration – On Site
Figure 2c. Kingdom Tower Y-shaped configuration – On Site
Figure 2d. Kingdom Tower Y-shaped configuration - On Site
Figure 2d. Kingdom Tower Y-shaped configuration – On Site

To counter all natural magnification, one very typical approach is to reduce the plan size of the tower as it rises in height. On Burj Khalifa, the tower has 27 tiers with setbacks/plan shape reductions at each. Similar to Burj Khalifa, Kingdom Tower “confuses the wind” by reducing the cross-sectional size of the tower as it rises.

However, unlike Burj Khalifa, Kingdom Tower does it by means of a continuous taper to each wing (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 Marvel of Tapering Shapes
Figure 3 Marvel of Tapering Shapes

A continuous taper was a lesson learned in the construction of Burj Khalifa. Eliminating the stepped setbacks as on the Burj obviated the need for outrigger transfers and belt trusses at certain locations, which in turn will reduce the concentration of structural loads as well as permit a more efficient, continuous and uninterrupted construction process.

Furthermore, having different rates of taper to each wing results in different termination heights for each one, thereby creating distinctly a three part spire of Kingdom Tower. This intuitive concept was confirmed by wind studies performed by RWDI at its facility in Toronto.

The structure for the Kingdom Tower is comprised entirely of cast-in-place reinforced concrete walls, coupling beams, and conventionally reinforced flat plate concrete floor framing (see Figure 4). The structure contains no outriggers or wall/ column transfers. Due to the continuous and uninterrupted vertical nature of the walls for the tower, a highly efficient jump form system can be utilized.


Figure 4. Structural components
Figure 4. Structural components


Formwork for the floor slabs also can be reused due to the highly repetitive geometry of the tower. The faces of the shear walls are all vertical, with the exception of the ends of each wing, which taper to follow the form of the Tower. This can be accomplished by a simple shift of between 200 and 300 millimeters for each 4 meters vertical lift or internal block-outs in formwork that is lifted vertically.

Since the ends of the shear walls slope, the taper at the end of each wing is created by a consistent 3.5-meter cantilever extension of the slab edge. All building envelope notching is achieved by simply dropping off slab edge cantilevers.

Through this concept of dropping off structural components to create the architectural expression, and allowing formwork to easily jump up on each level of the tower, a highly efficient and con-structible system is realized while creating a very distinctive form.

Concrete compressive cube strengths required to realize the tower structure are not expected to exceed 115 MPa, and 60 to 80 MPa at significant heights. Advances in concrete mix designs and concrete pumping technology will be brought to bear in order to place high strength concrete in the upper portions of the tower.


The foundations for the tower are a raft supported on bored circular piles located approximately 2.5 meters below existing grade due to site modifications raising the base of the tower (see Figure 5). This modification minimizes the amount of potential dewatering required on the site during construction of the lower levels.

Figure 5. Kingdom Tower raft section
Figure 5. Kingdom Tower raft section


Tower Form, Culture, Site, and Location

As part of a design performance process, any solution should reflect a specific culture, location and time:In the case of Kingdom Tower, the solution reflects the desire of Jeddah Economic Company (JEC) and the leaders of Saudi Arabia to show the world the potential of their vision of the Kingdom as an increasingly important, vital, and thriving member of the international community. It is also rooted in the desert landscape.

The sleek, streamlined form of the tower can be interpreted as a reference to the folded fronds of a growing young de-sert plant. The way the fronds sprout up-ward from the ground as a single form, then start separating from each other at the top, is an analogy of new growth fused with technology. As AS+GG partner Gordon Gill explains: “the tower evokes a bundle of leaves shooting up from the ground a burst of new life that heralds more growth all around it. This symbolizes the tower as a catalyst for increased development around it.”

In terms of the project’s location, studies of sun, wind and views, among many others parameters, informed and guided the design process that shaped the tower. The tower orientation in the plan was ad-justed to point one wing toward Mecca, while another points almost directly north, by which both the overall solar load was reduced while simultaneously improving the views of the majority of residential units (see Figure 6).

Figure 6. Sun diagram
Figure 6. Sun diagram

As it turned out, that adjustment in orientation also helped mitigate the magnitude of pedestrian level winds in several of the most critical locations, although it slightly increased the overall load due to design wind conditions.

Regarding “time,” Kingdom Tower uses current technologies and materials, but also incorporates “future making” designs. In the field of vertical transportation, for example, the height and program requirements will be a challenge that elevator manufacturers have accepted in agreeing to develop what will be the world’s tallest multi-deck elevator.

Similarly, the location and height of the towers’ mechanical floors will push the technology of the building’s’ chilled water, sprinkler, and domestic systems and equip-ment with their limits to working pressure and capacity.

Overall Tower Section and Stacking

The three tapered wings terminate at different heights with angular ends tied together with an array of horizontal elements such as the balconies and mechanical floors. The guiding design goal was of delivering a building fairly simple and cost effective to build. Therefore due diligence was exercised to ensure standardization by interacting with construction companies and component fabricators to ensure all assumptions made were real.

A key element for the constructability is the ability to extend the concrete and climbing form as high and as continuously as possible, having no transfers. In that regard, concrete vertical walls go up uninterrupted until they stop. There are no additional columns at the end of each wing. One of the main structural components is the stair enclosure, which also goes up uninterrupted until it stops. Overall, the vision was that concrete should be used as high in the structure as possible. Therefore aim was to remove( if possible), any additional steel member at the top.

Next important design decision was to standardize the floor to floor height at four meters for all uses, including office, residential, and hotel. This measure besides anything else was to help elevators flexibility and potential change in tower stacking through the different design stages.

With client’s nod office floors were oriented at the bottom to derive maximum advantage of larger floor plans and dropping elevator bays. The practice continued for the hotel, serviced apartments, and residential units of different levels. At the very top, is the super penthouse crowning tenant occupying it to be at the crown of the tallest building in the world.

The Finalized Design

No changes of any consequence were made by the client to design competition entry of July 2009, thus it remained mostly intact in significant elements at the end of the Schematic Design phase in February 2010.

Nevertheless, the evolution and adjustment for final fit revolved around the following elements:

1. Overall Massing and Stacking

A series of massing studies was carried out to maximize area program distribution throughout the height of the tower. The objective was to increase the size of the floor plates toward the top and reduce it at the bottom. From the developer’s point of view, more saleable area on the most expensive floors was important.

Geometrically speaking, the taper of each of the wings was modified and ro-tated around one-third of the tower, moving the wing walls further out and higher up, and moving them in at the lower floors.

The original competition scheme showed an additional tapered profile, connecting canopies to the main tower body, making office floors larger. This move was eliminated, reducing office floor area and overall tower area at the lower floors.


Figure 7. Kingdom Tower balcony design
Figure 7. Kingdom Tower balcony design

The actual tower starts at +20 metres above ground level, led there by a ramp and podium around the tower. The largest floor in the tower is 85,000 sqm consisting of a car park to service 2200 cars. The actual footprint of the tower is 6,700 sqm divided into three different entrances for the hotel, residences and offices.

The height is 1000 metres plus because no one knows the exact final height except for the Council of Tall Buildings and the four shareholders. Even the contractor will not know until he reaches the 160th floor.

2. Sky Terrace at Level 157

The client had asked for a helipad provision to be used by the owner or the super penthouse visitors at level 157. The original design placed platform at this level, to enable to access or leave the Majelis (lounge) of the penthouse via helicopter. Detailed studies, consultation with helicopter pilots and the wind engineering consultants showed that the helipad location would make taking off or landing maneuvers very risk prone.

But since the design for the helipad had by this time integrated and accepted in the overall tower design. Therefore the feature was retained but for a new use, as a “sky terrace” serving Level 157 crowning it to be the highest terrace in the world when completed at an elevation of 630 meters (see Figure 8).

Figure 8. The sky terrace at Level 157
Figure 8. The sky terrace at Level 157

3. Canopy Evolution

The canopy elements were developed from the competition scheme to schematic design with Softer lines sculpted and detailed sun studies to cater required coverage of canopy elements to stop di-rect solar radiation onto the lobbies’ clear glass cable walls. The final design has three extended, softly curved canopies that cover the main lobbies and extend horizontally to protect parking ramp entries (see Figure 9). The similar development process was followed for the next phase of the develop.


Figure 9. Exterior canopies
Figure 9. Exterior canopies

It was thought it pertinent to separately re-emphasize specific critical design aspects which therefore I am following up herein with experts’ inputs:

It’s the Wind that’s Mind Blowing

AS+GG partner Gordon Gill remark that The Kingdom Tower to be “highly constructible” in no way makes the design and build of a 1km tall tower simple. It simply means that the feat is possible if due diligence in design, engineering, material, construction is adhered to.

A serious fundamental concern is wind load, because as an ambition to go for great heights increases, this element needs to be very carefully addressed. The solution for Kingdom Tower, Gill asserts is to go for “The three-petal footprint for residential units, wherein the tapering wings by virtue of an aerodynamic shape help reduce structural loading due to wind vortex shedding.” Bart Leclercq, head of structures for WSP Middle East, agrees that the design of Kingdom Tower provides a sound aerodynamic solution; “The shape of the building is quite stiff in itself it’s the same footprint as Burj Khalifa. The taper reduces the wind load at the top. Since it changes shape every few floors, the wind loads go round the building and won’t be as extreme as would have been on a solid block.

There will be local disturbances, so it’s a really good design from an aerodynamic perspective.” Leclercq elaborates on the need for rigidity. “You have to make sure a tower is not too flexible and people aren’t getting nauseous in high winds. You have to put enough stiffening elements in your building. For example, sheer walls in combination with concrete cores in the case of a concrete building. It’s the same thing for a steel building you have to provide really solid structural walls that take care of the wind load. The building may be strong enough, but if it is not stiff enough then people will get really nauseous.” However, Leclercq is quick to point out that this should not be an issue on Kingdom Tower. “As long as a good structural engineer is involved, they will take care of that movement. That shouldn’t be a problem.” Steve Kelshaw, managing director of Dubai based DSA Architects International, believes that the tapering form is the best model for a tower of this height, despite the aesthetic limitations. “I don’t think you could do it any other way if you built a square design up to that height, I don’t know how it would work.” He continues: “That shape has got the wow factor. I never fail to marvel at the design of Burj Khalifa. It is truly a magnificent building. If I was in Saudi Arabia and I saw the same structure, I’d still be amazed. I wouldn’t get tired of looking at it.”

More on Wind’s Play on Soil, Structure & Foundation

Special attention is needed in Piling for the tower considering that one has to go up to 105 m in piles even just to stabilise the tower against the wind. One of the strongest concrete mixes, 85 C, was required for the activities.

The allowable sway for the concrete tower is kept 2.6 m and dampers are used to stabilise swaying. These are the largest mass dampers with pendulums ever made and installed. “One is 260 tons and the other is 870 tons working on top of each other just to compensate for tower movement.”

Soil conditions at the site have proved to be the most insurmountable factor to deal with. Piles literally continued to disappear into the ground. Technology came to the rescue. Microphones and sensors identified rivers flowing at 40 and 70 m underground.

The new action plan was to go with friction piles, a delicate process with 270 piles, each with a diameter 1.8 meter and 1.8 meters distance between each pile. What was it like to do this? It was like building 30 floors underground. And these Piles do not touch ground, but they are stabilised by virtue of the concrete that seeped from each one.

All the steel bars inside the piles are electrified so they won’t rust for a guaranteed 100 years.”

Finally for making things work, 18,000 cum of concrete was poured simultaneously, in the most professional manner. And mind it, ‘Each part of the building’ is gauged for soil movements and is observed via satellite!! What more one cannot build around the tower until floor 40 to make sure the soil has received the tower and settled in! doesn’t this now look like ‘extreme engineering’

Façade Innovation


Figure 10. Façade & Observatory
Figure 10. Façade & Observatory

Leclercq said that the architect’s treatment of facade may provide the tower will a distinct identity. “Although it uses the same footprint as Burj Khalifa, the designers can be really playful with the facade. The facade of Burj Khalifa is quite astonishing and the Kingdom Tower might look completely different from Burj Khalifa.”

The Kingdom Tower just turned out be really innovative!

The tower aimed to avoid sun reflections by the building’s façade that once caused Jaguar car parts in London to be melted by the ‘WalkieTalkie’ skyscraper, while burning Las Vegas tourists in the swimming pool facing their hotel.

The tower uses tinted glass and takes advantage of new energy conservation tech-nology that features a high-performance exterior wall system that will minimize energy consumption by reducing thermal loads. Ventilation solutions were also installed to allow for maintenance crews to do their work without being scorched by excessive heats.

“For fireworks displays, the tower has pre installed equipment to prevent what is happening with Burj Khalifa when a team of mountain climbers is called to install pyrotechnics and then taking them out again, costing millions.”

Elevators Par-excellence

A big challenge for supertall buildings is vertical transportation, which includes elevators and fire escapes. Leclercq explains: When you work on a building of that height you find that a large area of the floor plate has to be occupied by vertical transportation. This means that you have large areas that can’t be lettable (rentable). He refers to the unbuilt 1.4km high Nakheel Tower in Dubai, for which WSP provided the structural design. “The Nakheel Tower design had 47 lifts, just to get people up and down, so you can imagine the enormous amount of space that this required. The lettable (rentable) area is reduced the higher you go, and that’s a problem,”

For the Kingdom tower major analysis was performed with one of the problems being how to reach 167 floors in 1.6 minutes through the elevators. The fastest elevator is made by Toshiba at 17 metres per second and installed in Taipei 101. But experts “discovered that people’s bladders behaved funny if we go faster than 10 metres per second going down. Earlier AS+GG initial information talked of an estimated 59 elevators in total including 54 single deck along with five double deck elevators and in addition to 12 escalators were foreseen. Elevators will travel at a rate of 10 metres per second.

A formidable challenge was the weight of the cables alone, amounting to 40 tons per car because as height increases so does cable cross section besides length!. “Imagine eight of these for each elevator. Armed with New technology introduced by Finnish company Kone, a carbon fibre rope called Ultra rope which reduces 20 tons down to three.”

The carbon fiber ropes in these elevators will be one-third the weight of the cables used in other buildings, which will enable the elevators to travel to greater heights and use less energy. The carbon fiber ropes are stronger, lighter, and har-der to break than traditional steel cables. Lighter ropes make it easier to stop an elevator in the event of a problem. Carbon fiber ropes last twice as long, which can reduce maintenance costs. Carbon fiber rope also resonates at a different frequency than other building materials, which makes it sway less if a skyscraper moves in high winds. This can prevent elevators from shutting down in windy conditions.

“The building will be more than 1,000 metres and the elevator shaft will be 637 metres in one shot,” said Henrik Ehrnrooth, the president and CEO of Kone Corporation. “It will be the highest, longest, above ground, lift shaft in the world. There will be a double decker elevator which will be the fastest in the world to cover the near half-a-mile distance. There are faster elevators in the world which are not double decker, but the speed at which these will travel will be swift and comfortable. Your ears will be able to balance and that is the compromise.”

Information also is floating of 59 elevators, including four double-decker and 2 triple decker elevators. As per KONE total of 65 elevators and escalators serve inclu-ding 21 KONE Mono-space elevators, 29 Mini-space elevators, 7 Double-Deck Mini-space elevators and 8 KONE TravelMaster-110 escalators.The contract includes 10-year equipment maintenance.

It seems the final number on elevators is as elusive as the overall height of the kingdom tower!

Gauging Site Status

The construction pace at site is pictured here to show that by far at present pace if work continues The Kingdom Tower could be declared open by 2020 especially because there is no hold up on financing as the same has been fully facilitated with requisite top ups. (Figures 11 to 14)


Figure 11 Kingdom Tower works 2014
Figure 11 Kingdom Tower works 2014
Figure 12 The German company Bauer contracted to lay the foundation for the Kingdom Tower finished its work. Raft piling works have been completed. Jeddah Economic Company (JEC) has announced that the 12-month long foundation work project is finished, clearing the way for construction work to begin on the site.
Figure 12 The German company Bauer contracted to lay the foundation for the Kingdom Tower finished its work. Raft piling works have been completed. Jeddah Economic Company (JEC) has announced that the 12-month long foundation work project is finished, clearing the way for construction work to begin on the site.
Figure 13. Kingdom Tower Jeddah, September 2015: The building passed the 21st-floor mark. The main contractor, the Binladin Group subcontracted Schwing Stetter for the concrete operations. The brand new Schwing SP 8800 Container stationary pump will be used to bring concrete to record heights.
Figure 13. Kingdom Tower Jeddah, September 2015: The building passed the 21st-floor mark. The main contractor, the Binladin Group subcontracted Schwing Stetter for the concrete operations. The brand new Schwing SP 8800 Container stationary pump will be used to bring concrete to record heights.
Figure 14. The construction team working on the Jeddah Tower project has completed the podium structure and reached the 40th vertical floor. Pictured is the tower on Sunday, May 15 ,2016. (Susan Baaghil for The National)
Figure 14. The construction team working on the Jeddah Tower project has completed the podium structure and reached the 40th vertical floor. Pictured is the tower on Sunday, May 15 ,2016. (Susan Baaghil for The National)

Lebanese firm, Advanced Construction Technology Services (ACTS) responsible for quality control at the construction of the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah has also been appointed for quality control works on the Kingdom Tower. It will be responsible for testing half million cum concrete and 80,000 tons of steel required for construction.

The Jeddah Economic Company ac-quired six cranes to aid in building the massive structure. The cranes that are developed by German company Liebherr & WolffKran are built to withstand harsh meteorological conditions, especially winds. The biggest crane is a custom Liebherr type 357 HC-L. It will be able to lift 18 tons of materials at a speed of 44 meters a minute.

The Height of Eternal ‘Height’ Race

Like the Burj Khalifa, the final height of the project is undisclosed resembling the height wars in New York City in the last century. One can recall when the top of the Chrysler Building was kept hidden until its final debut, in order to beat out the Manhattan Trust Building! Kingdom Tower has gone a step further with the height suspense because except for the Council of Tall Buildings and four shareholders even the contractor will not know Final Height until he reaches the 160th floor!!

Will we ever put Height wars aside? Let’s see what experts express:

The 1km high Kingdom Tower is an engineering feat that, according to project’s handlers, “has challenged mankind to outdo himself” and calls into question whether it really is possible to build even higher in the future.

That’s chief development officer for Jeddah Economic City Dr. Hisham Jonah’s view expressed during the Construction Week’s Infrastructure Summit 2015.

A 1km tall tower may seem staggering, but is this the buildable limit? Most probably not, according to the chairman of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, Dr Sang Dae Kim. “With Kingdom Tower we now have a design that reaches around 1 km in height. Later on, someone will push for 1 mile, and then 2km,” adds Kim. He points out that building at such height will incur many structural challenges. However for WSP’s Leclercq, the technical limit at the current time is 1 mile. “I truly believe that 1 mile 1.6 kilometres is within range. Over that, it may be possible if there are improvements in concrete quality. But 2km is too big a figure it’s just a step too far at the moment,” says Leclercq.


Figure 15- French climber Alain Robert, known as Spiderman for his death-defying ascents of the world's highest buildings without safety equipment
Figure 15- French climber Alain Robert, known as Spiderman for his death-defying ascents of the
world’s highest buildings without safety equipment

DSA’s Kelshaw is similarly cynical “Is the market there? Are there people that want to work and live at that height? That is an unknown market. Getting people to work and live in such a tower will be a challenge in itself,” he argues.

On this Leclercq disagrees and asserts that there will be always be an appeal to build and occupy the tallest building in the world, no matter how high. “Is there such as thing as too high? I think mankind is al-ways going to be challenged by finding the next frontier. I think there’s also a market people will always want to be in the world’s tallest tower,” he concludes.

Why Kingdom/Jeddah Tower is truly awesome, not just a big building

1. The structure, formerly known as the Kingdom Tower, will be home to the world’s highest observatory. It will also have a separate, 98-foot-diameter outdoor balcony, which was originally intended to be a helipad.
2. The building is so big they are unable to show it realistically in one rendering. Only elevations and birds-eye views can contain the entire project. Imagine those construction drawings.
3. The foundation piles are about as large as a small room at 10 feet in diameter, and can reach up to 360 feet in length.
4. Its shape is functional. The narrowing silhouette has to fight the wind as well as gravity, so the three-sided shard is designed to be aerodynamic. The taper also helps maximize usable/rentable area. It offsets the large core size on the lower floors by widening the base, while the shape also narrows the core overall, making it less space-consu-ming at the top.
5. Its form is interesting for a tower of its size. The “three petal” plan allows separate extrusions to nudge against one another, while the profile is inspired by folded fronds of young desert plant growth. Gill-like indentations add ano-ther scale of visual intrigue.
6. It’s on a plinth! But joking aside, the building does meet the ground in a nuanced, thoughtful way. Transportation routes crisscross around it, and the plinth melds it with its urban surroundings.
7. It has 59 elevators and 12 escalators, and five of these elevators will be double decker. The lifts will not reach the speeds of normal elevators, as the change in air pressure at those altitudes would cause nausea. Three sky lobbies will prevent any one elevator from having to go all the way to the top, eliminating the need for excessively huge cables.
8. It has high-tech features. A high-perfor-mance exterior wall system, including low-conductivity glass, will minimize energy consumption by reducing thermal loads.
9. There are super-cool patios all along its three sides. Each side features a series of shaded notches where outdoor terraces offer extreme views of Jeddah and the Red Sea.
10. The massive structure will contain 80,000 tons of steel. Parts of the core will contain concrete that is several meters thick.

SPIDERMAN awaits Kingdom tower completion




Alain Robert, the extreme climber affectionately known as the French Spiderman, on hearing of The Kingdom Tower said he is up for the challenge of scaling Jeddah’s 1000m-plus Kingdom Tower, once it is completed.

The 49-year-old climber has courted controversy over the years by climbing many of the world’s tallest towers some of them without permission, risking arrest. He successfully scaled the 828m Burj Khalifa in six hours during an officially endorsed climb.

Robert’s concern as expressed by him in 2011 interview was pertaining to time: “I have been told it will be at least 10 years before it is finished, and by that time I will be in my late 50s. That doesn’t mean I can’t make it: I know within myself that I can definitely make it.”

Robert said his successful climb of the Burj Khalifa was exceptionally challenging, particularly as he was forced to start the climb two hours late.“It was difficult, and as I got higher, the wind started to build. I had no other choice: it was either postpone or cancel, so I had to do it.”

“During the final part, I couldn’t see the top and the spire was very slippery, which made things even more difficult. It was great to finally get to the end,” he said.

Author’s Bio


Sadagopan Seshadri
Chief – Content Development,
CE – Infrastructure – Environment

The author leads our Delhi bureau. An Engineer and qualified ADR professional (NALSAR alumnus), Sadagopan Seshadri has been a senior Contract Management Pro-fessional in large national & Inter-national Companies. His domain experience is in Building Products, Cement plants and Mega Power project execution. He has been an expert visiting faculty and univ. examiner for Contract Mana-gement at the SSAA, IP University, New Delhi. Being passionate about Environment he has now turned to Landscape Projects design teamed with like-minded architects & engineers for sustainable landscapes development He is vocal with his views on these areas through his writings.

He can be reached at: design2xcel@gmail.com


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