January 19, 2018

The sky is the limit (?!)

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Kingdom Tower

Kingdom Tower (Photo credit: Brett Jordan)

When completed, the Kingdom Tower near Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) will be the world’s tallest building, reaching a height of 1,000m. It will literally reach the sky… Could we expect even higher building in the future?

With their ambitious height and size they can become “mini cities”. This would definitely change our perception of “home” and will affect the way we live. Will we soon be able to overlook an airplane from above, when waking up in the morning, or will we need to use an oxygen mask when stepping out to our porch? I was curious to understand where we are heading, so I’ve made a short list* of the “tallest buildings in the world” (this heading is an issue in itself as categories vary, however, let’s leave that aside).

Building Country Height (m) Year Years to build
Willis (Sears) Tower USA 442 1973 3
Petronas Towers Malaysia 452 1998 3
Taipei 101 Taiwan 509 2004 5
Burj Khalifa Dubai 828 2010 6
Kingdom Tower Saudi Arabia 1,000 2018** 6**

  *) source: wikipedia. **) estimated.

It seems like building practice has an evolution curve of its own; these figures somehow remind me of Moore’s Law – a computing term which originated in the 70’s. The simplified version of this law states that processor speeds, or overall processing power for computers, will double every two years (more about Moore’s law here). So what do buildings and processors have in common you ask? The height of the buildings climbs steeply every ~6 years or so (of course this is only my generalising observation).



Building height comparison

As a project manager, I often think of the sheerness of those projects structures and especially their control (discussed in Modules 2, 4 and 5 of the EBS Project Management course text).

This kind of mega-project is a reality changer. It involves innovation (technical and sociological challenges such as water and drain, elevators, parking and transportation, emergency aspects and other facilities). It requires the establishment of a mechanism to operate and control the construction and then the occupation of such a “vertical city”. Above all, it demands an excellent project management practice in order to turn an idea into a giant functioning structure within time, scope and cost constraints (it is known that construction costs and time are decreasing due to better technological and managerial practices). However their scope is rising. How can this be achieved?

Having the tallest building in the world represents industrial and economic ability, steadfastness and valor. The battle for the tallest building in the world continues. For this reason alone, project management practice will keep developing in order meet the challenge of materializing the builders’ visions; project management is the tool for managing change. I believe the limit is still far away.

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Shai Davidov About Shai Davidov

Shai Davidov, Edinburgh Business School, Senior Teaching Fellow