Working at Height on the Kingdom Tower

Working at Height on the Kingdom Tower

20th August 2015

Throughout history man has been striving to overcome nature by building enormous structures for one reason or another.  We’ve probably all seen some of the different theories on how the Egyptians managed to build such massive pyramids, the earliest of which date back as far back as 2,600 BC.  How did they move and hoist such massive stone blocks without the use of modern machinery?  Yes, the Egyptians did have tens of thousands of slaves and, no – there were no health and safety in the workplace regulations back then! 

What about the giant heads on Easter Island?  It’s been discovered recently that these colossal heads have bodies buried under the ground, making them much more of an accomplishment than was earlier realised.  Then there is the ancient town of Shibam in Yemen with some of the world’s earliest skyscrapers.  During the Middle Ages, lofty Gothic cathedrals started springing up all across Europe, some of which took hundreds of years from start to completion.  At the time, the Cathedrals in England would have been the tallest structure for miles and most were painted on the inside and outside.  Imagine walking across the English countryside and spotting a huge, colourful building in the distance – they must have looked awesome. 

Over the past couple of hundred years, the race has been on to build the world’s tallest building and each time the title is taken by a new building, it seems that another construction project gets underway in order to knock the current title holder off the top spot. 

The latest “tallest building in the world” is well on the way to being built – the proposed Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia is destined to rise a breath taking 3,280 feet.  Engineers working on the project are currently beginning tests to work out how they are going to pump the wet concrete more than half a mile up into the sky. 

Construction of the Kingdom Tower will see the need to overcome several technical challenges and involve the use of half a million cubic metres of concrete and around 80,000 tons of steel.  The foundations necessary will be 200 feet deep and will need to withstand the saltwater of the nearby Red Sea.  Engineers will therefore need to test the strength of several different high performance concretes. 

The construction process itself will be complicated – each floor will be built by pumping concrete through a thin pressurised tube about six inches wide and the job will become more difficult as the job progresses.  Until now, the record for the highest concrete pumping activity rests with the Burj Khalifa in Dubai which stands a massive 2,722 feet tall.  Engineers on the Burj used high tech pumps created by the German company Putzmeister and all the pouring had to be done at night time when temperatures were lower.

The Kingdom Tower will form the centrepiece of the Kingdom City development and is part of the many infrastructure and revitalisation projects currently taking place in Saudi Arabia.  According to Saudi officials, a rapidly growing population means that there is a need of around 900 new homes per day to meet demand so it sounds as if the construction industry in the country is booming right now.