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Kingdom Tower: Can it be done?

by Stephen White on Sep 20, 2011

The Kingdom Tower could demand concrete is poured from a platform high up the structure.
The Kingdom Tower could demand concrete is poured from a platform high up the structure.

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RELATED ARTICLES: Kingdom Tower to push software design envelope | Kingdom Tower architect grapples the wind at 1000mKingdom Tower to be 50 storeys taller than Burj

The resemblance to the current title-holder of the World’s Tallest Tower, Burj Khalifa, was one of the most striking aspects of the designs of the Kingdom Tower that were put into circulation following the announcement that the hyper-tall building is to be built.

Although there are still details to be filled out, including its vaunted final height, it is clear that the building will take more than a world record off its Dubai cousin.

If Kingdom Tower becomes the first building in the world to broach the 1,000m mark, it will herald a new era of construction and set a challenging new benchmark for future towers to aim at. But it will be one that will rely on Burj Khalifa for its foundation.

The first two phases of construction are the building of the tower – over 50 hectares – and the construction of the infrastructure for the entire development. The third phase, according to Kingdom Holding, is yet to be finalised; one of many tantalising bits of mystery around the project.

While the final height remains a mystery there are a few clues to how high it will eventually reach. AS+GG has leaked some choice titbits since being revealed as its architects including that it will have 50 more storeys than Burj Khalifa and that it will be twice as high as the Taipei 101 in Taiwan – a tower, which at 509m, was the world’s tallest barely a decade ago.

Whether it is 1,001m or 1018m tall, Kingdom Tower is destined to raise the bar yet again for both the design and the construction of super tall structures.

Add on the fact that it has to be finished within five years – the same time it took to put up the Burj Khalifa – it is safe to say building a tower beyond 1km is going to test the very limits of what is possible for man and machine.

Fortunately, according to the people tasked with working out how it will be built, the good news is the wheel does not need to be re-invented this time – although it may have to turn a lot faster.

As ever, building high means starting at the very bottom and the Kingdom Tower is set to be one of the deepest ever attempted. Buried in the flood of press releases and news stories released last week was the announcement that the tender process for the foundation work was already underway.

Those that have been following the project closely say that the foundations were one of the major factors in determining the building’s final height. Some have speculated that plans for a mile-high version of the tower were abandoned after the soil of the Kingdom City location failed to take the massive pilings required after a series of tests earlier this year.

Instead it is likely that the 60m deep, 7,500m2 foundation will be based on the Burj Khalifa’s – a scaled-up high density, low permeability concrete mat made to hold back the corrosive effects of salt water from the Red Sea.

The more the plans for Kingdom Tower solidify, the more likely that Burj Khalifa will be used as a blueprint.

In the years to come, Dubai’s landmark will serve as useful reference point, which did not exist seven years ago. With the tender out, companies are working on the technicalities of meeting the five-year schedule.

“We are already working on it,” confirms Jens Bawidamann of Putzmeister, the company that poured the foundation and pumped concrete to an elevation of 606m for Burj Khalifa.