Kingdom Tower, one kilometre into the sky: New tallest highrise, new challenges

Kingdom Tower, one kilometre into the sky: New tallest highrise, new challenges
Kingdom Tower, one kilometre into the sky: New tallest highrise, new challenges

The world's first kilometre tall highrise is to set to start construction later this year. 

Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, will boast a number of world firsts, including 56 of the world's fastest elevators. It's expected to be completed in 2018 at a cost of $US1.23 billion.

It will overtake the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai and which Adrian Smith had previously worked on, as the tallest building by 173 metres.

The Kingdom Tower will include hotels, offices, apartments and an observation spot and will be cheaper per square metre than its tallest predecessor.

Kingdom Tower, one kilometre into the sky: New tallest highrise, new challenges

In an interview with Saudi Arabian newspaper Al Sharq, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal said that it will be part of a larger 3,500,000 square metres of real estate.

"The Kingdom Tower will be a milestone in this project, because it will boost the value of the rest of the property," he said. Bin Talal said that they expect a return on investment over a period of 10 years. 

Asked by Al Sharq about Burj Khalifa's difficulty in finding tenants, bin Talal said that the development sold out and the developers got their money.

"It is the new owners who are not able to find tenants. The hotel there does very well," he said. "The problem is that Dubai faced a crisis of its own excess, add to that the crisis that hit the global banking sector in 2008, and add a new economic crisis faced by many countries around the world such as Greece, Italy and others. All these factors weighed heavily on the shoulders of the real estate market in Dubai."

Kingdom Tower continues the trend of “supertall” highrises over 300 metres. 

More than 50% of buildings over 300 metres in height have been built in the last four years, with just one, the Gold Coast's Q1, in Australia. The Eureka Tower in Melbourne falls just short of the classification at 297 metres.

The Middle East and Asia accounts for 90% of "supertall" projects, including the Kingdom Tower.

By 2020, the average total height of the top 20 tallest buildings globally is expected to be around 600 metres. 

Interestingly, these highrises bring their own challenges. In Australia, new multi storey towers were recently suggested for a number of areas of Sydney under zoning changes. This is likely to prompt plenty of community opposition, despite no suggestion they will be one kilometre tall, record breaking offerings.

Insurance is also a challenge when it comes to the super highrises. Allianz Global Corporate & Speciality (AGCS), who were also the insurer of the Gold Coast’s Q1, have created a Supertall Buildings Risk Bulletin detailing the challenges.

AGCS regional manager engineering, Ronan Gallgher, said that insurance has a huge role in managing the complex risks of these projects.

“One of the biggest challenges of such developments relates to safety and the success of the design because many materials are being used at the limits of their performance capability,” he said.

Photos courtesy of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture.

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke was a property writer at Property Observer

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