How long will Kingdom Tower take to construct?

It was 2.64 days per metre for the Burj: will Kingdom Tower be faster?

How long will a 1600 metre Kingdom Tower take to build?
How long will a 1600 metre Kingdom Tower take to build?

 “Big projects need vision, strength and guts to do”. So said Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, chairman of Kingdom Holding Company, the day after signing a $1.2 billion deal with Saudi Binladin Group, to crack on with building the long-proposed Kingdom Tower.

 He’s right. While talk of the tower, to be located in Jeddah, has been around for a few years now, actually signing up a contractor to tackle something that’s never been done before, takes the project well beyond the world of concept design and rumour.

When the idea was first tabled, talk was of a ‘mile high’ tower. At 1600 metres that would be quite a feat, but the latest news is of a more restrained 1000 metre-plus effort.

The scale of the work involved will be significant. There are obvious comparisons to the challenges taken on by the team behind the Burj Khalifa and perhaps that project’s fabled tower crane operators will get a call up.

While the project will create the world’s tallest building, the Burj won’t lose its crown overnight. It will take time for the Kingdom Tower to reach its full height, but just how much?

Well, with some rough calculation, I figure about seven and a quarter years. Now this is a guess, but it involved some arithmetic too.

Let’s start with what we know - or are guessing at. The companies behind the project are understandably coy about the final height the tower will achieve, but for the sake of argument, let’s say it makes it to 1001 metres.

Now the only thing we have to go on for building a tower even close to this size is the Burj Khalifa, which measures up at 828 metres. Officially construction of the Burj started in January of 2004 and, officially, finished with a grand opening ceremony in January 2010.

That’s six years, at 365 days a year - with a couple of extra days for leap years - we end up with 2192 days of official construction activity; or 2.64 days per metre of completed building.

If that’s how long it takes to complete a metre of super tall, it will take 2642 days, or 7.24 years for Kingdom Tower to reach 1001 metres and be complete – assuming the project manages the same pace as the Burj Khalifa. If Saudi Binladin doesn’t stop building until it reaches the mile mark – 1609 metres – then it could take 4247 days, or 11.63 years.

Certainly engineering lessons learned on the Burj will contribute to the development of the scaled-up version in Jeddah. In principal the design is similar to other tall towers from the same architect, but new techniques and technology will almost certainly speed progress. Budget estimates also indicate it may be cheaper too. While a 1000 metre tower has never been built before, the project team will have the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of giants.

According to a statement from Kingdom Holding, work is scheduled to start ‘imminently’, but regardless of the final height, it will be years before the investment starts to make a return.

One of the cornerstones of the project will be providing sustainable profits to Kingdom Holding shareholders. If the Burj Khalifa business model is to be used as an example for how this is likely to happen, the profits don’t necessarily come from the tower itself, but from the value its presence creates.

In Kingdom Tower’s case it is to be the centerpiece of Kingdom City, which will occupy 5.3 million m2 of land in the north of Jeddah. Profits will come from the hotels, shopping malls, offices and high-density residential areas that will spring up around the tower and no doubt, increase in value the taller it gets.


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