Currently, the tallest building globally is the Burj Khalifa, standing at 828 meters. However, soon there will be a change. If everything goes as planned, the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia will become the tallest building by the end of this decade.
This new skyscraper is a groundbreaking project, aiming to surpass the 1-kilometer mark. Upon completion, it is expected to reach a height of up to 1,138 meters, a dimension previously only seen in fictional movies.
The purpose of this remarkable structure is to enhance the prosperity, growth, and global presence of Saudi Arabia.
In this article, we will cover various aspects of this giant skyscraper, including its architectural style, design, engineering, budget, and overall project progress. Let’s kick things off with some fascinating facts and statistics that show Jeddah Tower is much more than just the tallest structure.
Table of Contents
The Name of Skyscraper
Originally named Kingdom Tower, the structure underwent a name change to Jeddah Tower. It was initially planned to be one mile high but was later scaled down to at least one kilometer.
Authorities took this decision because the geology of the location is not suitable for a tower of such altitude. The exact height of the tower is being kept confidential, and it will only be revealed upon the completion of construction.
Owner and Budget
The Prince of Saudi Arabia, Al-Waleed bin Talal, is the owner and creator of the project. He holds the position of the wealthiest man in the Middle East and is the nephew of the Kings of Saudi Arabia, as well as the grandson of Ibn Saud, the first monarch and founder of Saudi Arabia.
As the chairman of the Kingdom Holding Company, Talal has a significant ownership stake. In 2011, the Saudi Binladin Group secured a $1.23 billion contract to build the Jeddah Tower. Interestingly, this budget is lower than that of the Burj Khalifa, which cost $1.5 billion.
You might wonder how it’s possible to construct such a skyscraper with this budget. The answer lies in the availability of inexpensive labor in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia, and the decline in prices resulting from the global financial crisis.
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The Jeddah Economic City development is a three-phase project spanning 5.2 square kilometers. The tower is situated on a 50-hectare plot, precisely covering 243,886 square meters. The entire city, designed by HOK Architects, is set to take more than 10 years to complete, with an estimated project cost exceeding $20 billion.
The Jeddah Tower is planned to comprise over 170 floors, accommodating luxury hotels, condominiums, office space, serviced apartments, and an observation deck.
Who Designed the Building?
The main design of the skyscraper is the work of Adrian Smith, an American architect renowned for designing iconic structures such as the Burj Khalifa, Trump International Hotel and Tower (Chicago), and the Pearl River Tower (Guangzhou, China).
The management of the tower falls under the responsibility of Emaar Properties PJSC, while Thornton Tomasetti Group handles the structural engineering. Environmental Systems Design Inc. is tasked with providing expertise in electrical, mechanical, and fire protection engineering, as well as teledata and security systems.
Structural Design and Engineering
The skyscraper features a triangular footprint and sloped exterior to reduce wind loads. This design choice eliminates the need for complex outrigger transfers and belt trusses, thus reducing structural loads.
The wings of the tower will terminate at different altitudes, allowing them to taper at varying rates and form a three-section spire. The supporting structure includes cast-in-place reinforced concrete walls, reinforced plate concrete floor framing, and coupling beams.
To enhance energy efficiency, a high-performance exterior wall system minimizes thermal loads. Notches on all three sides of the tower create shadow-shielding areas from the sun and offer stunning external views.
Similar to the Burj Khalifa, the Jeddah Tower will draw in cool and fresh air from its upper floors and utilize it for air conditioning within the building. Additionally, the water from the air conditioning system will be repurposed for irrigation and other essential systems throughout the tower.
Outdoor Sky Terrace
On the 157th floor, there will be a spacious outdoor balcony known as the sky terrace, extending approximately 30 meters.
This circular balcony, featuring a glass floor, will be exclusively available for penthouse owners for their private enjoyment. From this elevated vantage point, at over 610 meters, they can overlook the breathtaking views of the Red Sea.
When it comes to the world’s tallest building, we can’t overlook the means of reaching its towering heights. The skyscraper is equipped with a total of 59 elevators, including 5 double-deck elevators, and 12 escalators. These high-speed elevators can ascend at a rate of up to 10 meters per second.
The speed is intentionally limited to prevent potential nausea caused by the variation in air pressure at such high speeds. Notably, according to the current design, no single elevator in the building will transport passengers directly from the bottom to the top floor.
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The entire weight of the tower is estimated to be around 900,000 tonnes, requiring a substantial volume of approximately 500,000 cubic meters of concrete and over 80,000 tons of steel to complete the structure.
The construction of the tower heavily depends on cutting-edge technology, incorporating robust structural steel, reinforced concrete, and powerful pumps capable of pushing heavy concrete against gravity.
Over the past two decades, significant advancements in reinforced concrete have occurred. The quality of concrete and pumping technology continues to improve, enabling the realization of such massive structures.
Image credit: Checoblett
As of March 2018, Jeddah Tower had reached a height of 242 meters with 66 floors, accomplishing 26.44% of its planned height. Regrettably, construction came to a halt later that year due to labor issues with a contractor following the 2017–19 Saudi Arabian purge.
In September 2023, the Jeddah Economic Company (the developer) proactively restarted the project. They invited several international contractors to submit proposals by the end of 2023, along with the timeline for the project’s completion.
More Quick Facts and Stats about Jeddah Tower
1. Economic Viability
Jeddah Tower aspires to be a self-sustaining “vertical city” with special amenities and retail spaces. The building’s design has been praised for its simplicity, boldness, brilliant sculpting, and incorporation of high-tech elements.
The estimated cost of construction is $1.23 billion, thanks to cheap labor in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, and the use of three shifts working around the clock.
Saudi Arabia is known as the most economical country in the Middle East for construction, making the project economically viable.
2. Feasibility of Tower Height
While towers higher than one or even two kilometers are technically feasible, physical sustainability and practicality issues arise in buildings of extreme height. Bart Leclercq, a key member of the global senior management structure for BSBG, believes that 1.6 kilometers is within range, but towers exceeding two kilometers may face challenges.
Nevertheless, this skyscraper is designed to be 1 kilometer tall, surpassing the Burj Khalifa by 180 meters (591 feet).
3. Design and Symbolism
Jeddah Tower was designed by Adrian Smith. Its triangular footprint and sloped exterior are intentional features to reduce wind loads. This design resembles a desert plant, symbolizing the growth of Saudi Arabia.
4. Land Area and Development
The skyscraper is part of a three-phase Jeddah Economic City development, covering 120 acres, fostering the growth of a new district in Jeddah. The whole city development project will cost around $20 billion and take over a decade to build.
5. Foundation Engineering
Langan International designed the skyscraper’s foundation to support it under challenging subsurface conditions, including soft rock and permeable coral. The innovative design ensures stability and durability for the structure.
6. Observation Decks
Standing at 637 meters tall on the 157th floor, Jeddah Tower will feature the world’s highest observation deck. It will offer breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
7. Private Sky Terrace
The tower will feature a 30-meter-wide outdoor balcony exclusively for the private use of the penthouse floor at level 157. Initially intended as a helipad, the decision to repurpose it was influenced by lower air density and natural cooling factors.
8. Elevator Innovation
It will have a total of 50 elevators, including 5 double-deck elevators made by the Finnish company Kone. These high-speed elevators can travel up to 10 meters per second, balancing efficiency with air pressure changes, which is crucial at heights where air pressure is over 10 kPa lower than at ground level.
9, Ventilation and Environmental Considerations
The skyscraper’s orientation avoids direct sunlight on any facade. It will also repurpose condensate water from the air conditioning system for various needs throughout the building. This emphasizes the tower’s focus on natural cooling and sustainable practices.
10. Saudi Vision 2030
Jeddah Tower symbolizes Saudi Arabia’s ambition and modernization, earning global acclaim as a groundbreaking architectural achievement. It aligns with the country’s 2030 vision, a strategic plan to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on oil.
The completion and operation of Jeddah Tower are anticipated to bring a positive economic impact by generating employment opportunities and boosting local businesses.