Exclusive: Joint venture will project manage construction of world’s tallest $1.2bn Kingdom Tower

Kingdom Tower

An EC Harris and Mace joint venture has won a blockbuster contract to project manage construction of the world’s tallest skyscraper – the kilometre-tall Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The tower’s developer – Jeddah Economic Company (JEC) – sent the UK-based firms a letter of intention to appoint them on the $1.2bn (£800m) project this week.

Speaking exclusively to Building, Waleed Abduljaleel Batterjee, chief executive officer of JEC, praised the firms’ “very successful” bid - including Mace’s experience constructing western Europe’s tallest building the Shard - and said he expected the firms to “start mobilising” on the project on 1 April.

Batterjee said: “We were impressed by the qualifications of their staff. One of the reasons we hired them is they are going to use the same team that was on the Shard.”

Once completed, the skyscraper will overtake the world’s current tallest tower, the 828m Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The Kingdom Tower will be over three times as tall as the 308m Shard.

Batterjee said groundworks will “hopefully start by the middle of this year” and confirmed the planned construction programme will take 63 months, or just over five years, which could mean completion as early as 2018.

JEC invited 15 firms to bid for the project manager role, received five competitive bids and shortlisted two.

Shard and Kingdom Tower comparison

The architect is US-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the main contractor is Saudi Binladin Group, the engineer is US-based Thornton Tomasetti, the piling contractor is Saudi Bauer and supervision consultant is Dar Al-Handasah.

Batterjee also revealed the developer is close to appointing a further UK firm as quantity surveyor on the project. He said JEC and the unnamed UK QS are in “final negotiations on contract terms” and an agreement could be reached by the end of next week, but he declined to disclose the company’s identity.

He said the prospect of three UK-based firms on the project was “pure coincidence”. “They submitted the best bids”, he added.

Nevertheless the news follows a series of high-profile wins for UK consultants in the Middle East.

EC Harris and Mace are already working in joint venture together on delivery of the £1bn Ashghal programme of infrastructure improvements in Qatar, while Gardiner & Theobald, EC Harris and Arup are all working on delivery of the £3.1bn construction programme for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Kingdom Tower will form the centrepiece and first phase of the wider $20bn (£13bn) Kingdom City, a mixed-use district to the north of Jeddah.

Batterjee said overseas bids from all countries – including the UK – would be “welcome” on further Kingdom Tower and Kingdom City packages of work.

Batterjee – who has 33 years experience managing projects, including two $1bn-plus construction schemes – said he is planning to visit the Shard for the first time by the end of March.

He said Kingdom Tower will be “the first icon for Jeddah and the region” and will demonstrate the “stability” of the Saudi Arabian economy.