Saudi Arabia wants to overshadow Dubai’s Burj Khalifa tower by building the world’s tallest skyscraper.
The Kingdom Tower in Jeddah will soar to 3,280 feet – more than half a mile high and 600 feet higher than the Burj Khalifa, which stands at 2,691 feet.
Although plans are on the drawing board, building cannot start until structural engineers have overcome construction problems that make the building usable for workers, residents and visitors.
One issue under scrutiny before any concrete or steel are laid as foundations is how to stop sea water eroding the foundations.
Salt eats into concrete and steel, and as the foundations of the Kingdom Tower are around 200 feet below ground level, they will stand in the salt water table beneath the city.
Other practical problems include how to lift people from street level to the top of the structure quickly and efficiently without making them feel they are on a fairground ride.
Keeping air cool and fresh within the building and pumping water around each floor are also challenges for the designers and architects.
But these problems are small compared with the task of spreading the weight of the 80,000 tons of steel and concrete that will stretch up into the sky.
The sheer weight of the building as each upper floor bears down to compress the one below means contractors need to find new techniques and materials to ease their task.
Not only is compression a problem, but at 800 yards high, the Kingdom Tower is a giant monolithic post only fastened at the bottom when the wind blows, but experiencing a whole new lot of structural pressures other than compression.
Tower in the clouds
To find out more about the problems they face, the design team visited the under construction Shanghai Tower in China.
When completed, the Shanghai Tower will reach 2,054 feet into the sky.
Climbing to the top often means penetrating cloud level.
Whether the Kingdom Tower becomes reality or stays on the drawing board is mainly down to two factors, says Dr Sang Dae Kim, director of the Council on Tall Buildings.
“We do not have to build so high, but the factors that drive this are ego and money. Many nations and rulers want to say that they have the tallest building in the world as a symbol of wealth and power. The race used to be between Chicago and New York. Now it’s mainly between the Gulf States and China.”