‘Till Kingdom Come

In the world of skyscraper construction, developers know only superlatives. This week, the race to the top sees the crowning of a new King. Set to be the tallest, most expensive and famous building in the world, Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower began being built last Friday.


Never yet had a building surpassed a kilometer in height, but our new millennium finally has its man-made counterpart. This US$1.2 billion dollar project, envisioned by HRH King Alwaleed, will contain residential, commercial and office units on its 170 floors, as well as a 4 seasons hotel.

Building the new gateway to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina will require more than ambition though, it also needs over 80,000 tonnes of steel. This presents huge opportunity for the firms involved in the construction process. The Saudi King has chosen his longtime partners the Saudi Binladin group for the vital task of erecting the structure’s vertical steel backbone. The steel-based foundations meanwhile are to be built by German firm Bauer.

Kingdom Tower -630x420

Testing steel quality is now underway and has been outsourced to ACTS, a Lebanese expert company, who will deploy over 100 staff members on the operation. ACTS said that the extreme height of the Kingdom Tower meant that it would be required to use high strength, high performance concrete and to use special equipment to evaluate how the concrete flowed so that it could be pumped to very high elevations.

In 5 years time the building will open and become the new center for economic activity in the area, but for how long will it remain the world’s tallest building? That much is uncertain. What we can be sure of, though, is that wherever the King sits, he will be built with steel – hundreds of thousands of tonnes of it.

Sources: The National Dubai Real Estate, Jeddah Economic Company, Bloomberg Businessweek, World Steel Association.