By Stuart Matthews

With news this week that Jeddah plans to build a kilometre high tower, we thought it prudent to highlight those projects that currently top the world rankings as the tallest, largest, biggest and most impressive ever built.

Criteria for inclusion in the list was fairly simple: projects need to have been completed, or be close to completion and functional in some way.

Construction Week has not included projects still on the drawing board, or those that are in construction – we’ve just dealt with those that exist, and those that are recognised as leading the world in their categories. We’ve also listed current record holders, not those that are set to surpass them. The tallest all-residential tower, for example, is Australia’s Q1 Tower but it’s set to be superseded by several projects fairly soon – but as they have not been finished, the Q1 Tower retains the title.

We didn’t have to look far for inspiration for this collection of world toppers. Dubai still ranks as one of the world’s tallest cities – with 51 skyscrapers all standing over 200 metres high, matching New York’s tally. Hong Kong has 52 but Dubai has the Burj Khalifa, and six others that stretch to over 300 metres – including the world’s tallest hotel (building used exclusively as a hotel), the Rose Tower, at 333 metres and 72-storeys. It also has several more under construction at the moment.

The Middle East is home to some of the largest and most ambitious projects ever undertaken, but China’s sheer size and ambition to dominate the world means it too has embarked on some deeply impressive construction projects.

The world’s tallest building: The Burj Khalifa

No great surprise here. The Burj Khalifa burst onto the international scene at the beginning of this year with a massive fanfare, fireworks and festivities at the dawn of the new decade after a much anticipated build. The fanfare wasn’t without merit: the building smashing almost every record – and by a considerable margin.

What’s not commonly known is that the Burj actually bagged several world-topping records when it was opened (see below), and set new heights for others to attempt to surpass.

While other supertall projects, including Kuwait’s kilometre high City of Silk, Jeddah’s proposed Kingdom Tower (1001m) and Bahrain’s Murjan Tower (1022m) are in the planning stages, they don’t yet exist. Even if they were to be started soon, the length of time it would take to reach the Burj Khalifa’s lofty heights means the Dubai super-structure would reserve its place at the top of the world for some time yet.

According to The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, Taipei 101, at 508m, is the next tallest skyscraper and retains the record for being the world’s tallest all-office tower. Toronto’s 553m landmark CN Tower, and other towers of its type, were excluded from the list because they’re not habitable buildings. The building with the highest observation deck in the world is the Shanghai World Financial Centre (at 474m). The Burj Khalifa is second, at 452m – but still holds the record for the highest outside observation deck.


Project: Burj Khalifa
Location: Dubai, UAE
Work started: January 2004 (site excavation)
Completed: January 2010 (official launch)
Developer: Emaar Properties
Contractors: Samsung, BESIX and Arabtec
Architect: Adrian Smith, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM)
Height: 828m
Floors (above ground level): 162
Cost: $1.6bn
Nearest rival: Taipei 101 (508m)
– Tallest building in the world
– Tallest free-standing structure in the world
– Highest number of stories in the world
– Highest occupied floor in the world
– Highest outdoor observation deck in the world
– Elevator with the longest travel distance in the world
– Tallest service elevator in the world
– World’s highest mosque (158th floor)
– World’s highest swimming pool (76th floor)
– World’s highest occupied floor

The world’s furthest leaning tower: ADNEC Capital Gate tower

While the Leaning Tower of Pisa was never built to lean, its status as the world furthest leaning tower stood for well over 800 years before being toppled in the history books by Abu Dhabi’s 35-storey, 160m tall ADNEC Capital Gate.

To be fair, there wasn’t actually a record to be broken: Guiness World Record staff created a category for it, and awarded ADNEC its world topping honours earlier this year.

Architects created the building’s lean and twist by stacking the floor plates over each other. Floors 1-11 are vertically stacked, floors 12-28 are staggered between 800 to 1,400mm and then back to 900mm, and floors 29-35 between 300mm-900mm.

The core of the building uses vertical post-tensioning to resist the pressure placed on it. The tower features other innovative construction techniques including the world’s first known use of a ‘pre-cambered’ core, which contains more than 15,000 cubic metres of concrete reinforced with 10,000 tons of steel.

Pisa’s tower not only leans, but it’s also curved. Constructed in three stages over a 177-year period (the Pisans were constantly at battle), the tower started to lean soon after building started in 1173 after the soil foundations started to give. In the later stages of construction, engineers built the walls on one side longer than the other to compensate for the lean, making it bend at the top. The tower is now counter-weighted to stop it from falling over.


Building: ADNEC Capital Gate
Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Work started: September 2007 (enabling works)
Completed: End of 2010
Developer: Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company
Main contractor: Al Habtoor-Leighton Group
Architect: RMJM Dubai
Incline: 18 degrees
Nearest rival: Leaning Tower of Pisa (4 degrees incline)

The world’s largest mall: Dubai Mall

There are a few that can hope to claim the title of world’s largest mall. The New South China Mall has the largest Gross Leasable Area (GLA) of any mall in the world at 600,000m2, while Dubai Mall’s 350,000m2 ranks it just sixth largest in the world in terms of GLA.

However, when it comes to total area, Dubai Mall’s 1,124,000m2 easily eclipses all others to claim rights to the title of world’s largest mall.

Built within the Burj Khalifa complex and with over 1,000 shops and several separate malls-within-a-mall, Dubai Mall also has an aquarium with 33,000 animals and a 270-degree acrylic walkthrough tunnel, aquatic zoo, Olympic-sized ice-skating rink, 22-screen multiplex cinema, SEGA theme park, children’s play zone and numerous other attractions to keep shoppers entertained.

Dubai Mall also holds two other world records: one for the Dubai Aquarium’s largest acrylic panel ever made (32.88 m wide × 8.3 m high × 750 mm thick and weighing 245 tons).

The other is for the world’s largest dancing fountain which, at 275m (902.2ft) long, is longer than the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.


Building: Dubai Mall
Location: Dubai, UAE
Work started: 2004
Completed: November 2008
Developer: Emaar Properties
Main contractors: JV between Dutco Balfour Beatty, Al Ghandi/CCC
Architect: DP Architects Pte Ltd
Size: 1.124million m²
Nearest rival: South China Mall (890,000m2)Achievements:
– World’s largest mall by area
– World’s largest acrylic panel (aquarium)
– World’s largest dancing fountain

The world’s longest suspension bridge: Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Japan

There may be longer, taller and more impressive looking bridges in the world but the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, or Pearl Bridge, which links Kobe City in the north with Awaji Island in the Seto Inland Sea, has the longest span of any bridge in the world.

Prior to the construction of the bridge, ferries used to operate between Awaji and Kobe. The opening of the bridge in 1998 changed that. The bridge has three spans, one each at either end of the bridge (both 960m) and the record-breaking one of 1991m between the two main 282m towers.

The bridge deck provides 68m-high clearance, sufficient for ships to pass under. The Kobe earthquake spread the distance between the two suspension towers by a metre but deck construction hadn’t started, so the extra distance was easily accommodated.

It surpassed UK’s Humber Bridge as the longest suspension bridge when completed in 1998. With a span of 1410 metres, the Humber Bridge had held the record since 1981 but now sits fifth in the world rankings.


Structure: Akashi Kaikyo bridge
Location: Near Kobe, Japan
Work started: 1988
Completed: 1998
Construction: Obayashi Corp
Main contractor: Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Solétanche Bachy, Taisei Corportation
Designer: Honshu Shikoku Bridge Authority
Length: 3,911m
Main span: 1,991m
Pylon height: 283m
Clearance: 68m
Cost: 980 billion yen (AED40bn)
Nearest rival: China’s Xihoumen Bridge, 1,650m

Building with largest floor space: Dubai International Airport Terminal 3, UAE

When it comes to setting records, airports are fairly easy to analyse. The sheer size of the aircraft required to haul people around the globe means that terminals need to be incredibly big if they’re to cater for millions of passengers every year – and none more so that Dubai International Airport’s T3.

Home to Emirates airline’s expanding fleet, Terminal 3 handles a bulk of the airport’s 40.9 million passengers annually (2009 figures) and, once its dedicated Airbus A380 Concourse 3 is up and running, will give the airport the potential to handle 75 million travellers every year. Terminal 3 alone will have a maximum annual capacity of 43 million travellers.

The terminal boasts the largest interior floor space of any building in the world: its 1.456 million square metres easily beats nearest rival Holland’s Aalsmeer Flower Auction (990,000m2).

Terminal 3 opened in 2008 and was built under a JV by the Al Habtoor Leighton Group, South African company Murray and Roberts and Japanese firm Takenaka. More than 136 million man hours went into the project, which finished ahead of time.

Building with largest usable space: Boeing aircraft plant, Washington state, USA

Building a huge aircraft requires equally impressive facilities, and Guinness World Records lists the Boeing Plant in Everett, Washington as the largest building by volume in the world.

Initially built to house production facilities for the 747 Jumbo jet in 1966, the facility is still used to build all of Boeing’s twin-aisle aircrafts, including the latest generation 747, 767, 777 and new lightweight, composite-bodied Dreamliner.

The building has been expanded three times since 1966 – once in 1980 to accommodate the 767 production lines and again in 1993 to house the 777 production line – and now covers an area of 39.8 hectares, roughly the size of the Canary Wharf business estate in London.

Total volume of the building is 13.3 million cubic metres – and doesn’t include the paint hangars where the mighty machines are finished before flight test and delivery.

Production at the plant varies according to market conditions, but Boeing says it is able to produce up to seven 747 and 777s, and five 767s per month.


Building: Boeing Plant
Location: Everett, Washington State, USA
Work started: 1966
Completed: 1967
Developer: Boeing
Original size: 176,514m²
1980 expansion: 260,126m²
1993 expansion: 399,480m²

The world’s tallest all-residential tower: Q1 Tower, Australia

Again, a contentious record and one that will upset a few readers – but it all comes down to the definition and the use of the word “all”. The Burj Khalifa is ruled out because it’s a mixed use development (hotel, office tower and residences), while other towers also fall away thanks to the definition.

According to The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the world’s tallest all-residential tower is the 323m 78-storey Q1 Tower in Queensland, Australia when measured to the top of its highest structural component. The Eureka Tower in Melbourne is actually taller, when measured to the roof – and its highest floor sits above that of the Q1 – but TCTBUH’s rules place it below the Q1 in rankings.

It won’t matter soon anyway – both will be pushed off their perch by two Dubai towers being erected in the Marina area now. Residential tower 23 Marina will stand 395m tall and have 89 floors and is due for completion at the end of the year, while the Princess Tower, just 300m away, will top out at 414m and have 107 floors and is due to be finished at the end of 2011. The Elite Residence Tower, still under construction, will also be taller than Q1.

Of the current tallest 10 completed all residential towers in the world, Dubai has five, including the Emirates Crown (296m, 4th), Millennium Tower (285m, 5th), 21st Century Tower (269m, 7th), and Al Kazim Towers 1 and 2 (each 265m, 8th=). The next tallest all-residential tower in the GCC is the Al Fardan Residences in Doha, Qatar (253m, 16th).


Building: Q1, Queensland
Location: Gold Coast
Work started: 2002
Completed: 2005
Developer: Surfers Paradise Beach Resort
Main contractor: Sunland Constructions
Architect: Sunland Group
Height: 322.5m
Floors (above ground): 78
Nearest rival: Capital City Moscow Tower (302m)

World’s tallest bridge: Millau Viaduct, France

Like the Burj Khalifa, the Millau Viaduct in France is one of those structures that you simply can’t get sick of looking at. A staggering feat of engineering, the bridge stands as a monument to what can be achieved when, on those rare occasions, British technical ability and French tenacity combine to produce something truly extraordinary.

The Millau Bridge was an Anglo-Saxon effort. Designed by French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, the bridge’s highest mast towers 343m over the Tarn Valley floor. There is 270m clearance from the bridge deck to the valley floor: enough room to stack three 747-8s end-on-end and still have 30m left.

Main contractor  was Effiage, while the construction consortium also included the Eiffel company, responsible for the steel roadway, ENERPAC for the roadway’s hydraulic supports, Freyssinet for the cable stay work – and several other key sub-contractors. The bridge broke three records when it opened: the highest pylons in the world (244.96m and 221.05m), the highest bridge tower in the world (343m) and Europe’s highest road bridge deck at 270m. It also has the longest bridge deck that is supported only by cable stays and pylons (at 2460m). Since opening, the deck height of the Millau has been surpassed by four bridges in China.


Structure: Millau Viaduct
Location: Tarn Valley, southern France
Work started: October 2001
Completed: December 2004
Client: Ministry of Public Works, France
Main contractor: Effiage (France)
Designer: Norman Foster and Michel Virlogeux
Height: 343m
Nearest rival: Sutong Bridge, 306m

World’s largest power plant: Three Gorges Dam, China

China’s awakening as an industrial giant has seen it embark on a raft of mega projects including this, the Three Gorges Dam – the largest electricity generating plant of any type in the world.

The scale of the project is difficult to convey in a single picture. It stretches 2,335m across the Yangtze River, stands 185m high, has 32 generators each producing 700MW and, when supplemented with other smaller generators, has a combined output of 22.5 GigaWatts.

Three Gorges is not the tallest dam in the world: that honour falls to another Chinese power called the Jinping-I Hydropower Station on the Yalong River which will be brought online in 2014.

However, Three Gorges remains the largest. The dam wall is made of concrete and is about 2,309m long, and 185m high. The wall is 115m thick on the bottom and 40m on top. The project used 27,200,000m3 concrete, 463,000 tons of steel and moved about 102,600,000m3 of earth. The reservoir created behind the dam wall is 660km long.

The dam has its own system of locks and lifts for ships to keep the flow of cargo and goods along the river running, while a huge downstream reservoir helps prevent the risk of flooding should the dam fail. Four further dams upstream reduce sedimentation in the water and prevent the risk of the Three Dams failing. Work started on the project in 1994 and it is expected to reach full capacity next year.


Structure: Three Gorges Dam
Location: Yiling District of Yichang, China
Work started: December 1994
Completion: December 2011
Client: China Three Gorges Project Corporation
Main contractor: China Three Gorges Project Corporation
Cost: $30 billion
Size: 2309m x 185m
Annual output: 100 billion kW-h
Nearest rival: Itaipu Dam, Brazil

World’s largest manmade island: Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, UAE

While it may be the smallest of the three Palm islands planned for Dubai’s coastline, it remains the only one developed so retains the title it snatched in 2007 when the final breakwater stone was laid.

It’s not that small either. The island stretches 5km in to the sea, it’s 5km wide and the crescent that surrounds the 16 fronds is 11km long, from tip to tip. It covers 560 hectares, making it the biggest man-made island in the world.

It remains one of the most exclusive tracts of land in Dubai and is home to one of the most ambitious hotel resorts ever constructed, the Atlantis, The Palm.

Making the island was no small construction feat and the sheer volume of material required to establish the ornate landmark is enough to cause any quantity surveyor’s calculator to haemorrhage zeros.

More than 1 billion cubic metres of sand and 7 million tons of rock were used to create the Palm, and 10 dredging rigs worked around the clock for two years to create the trunk, fronds and 11km crescent surrounding the development. Developer Nakheel says the material used to create the Palm is enough to build a two metre high, half metre wide wall that could wrap around the world three times.

Main land reclaimation contractor Van Oord built the breakwater and the fronds simultaneously, a complex operation because the fronds were subject to erosion while the breakwater was unfinished. The beaches on the fronds were constructed so that they followed an exact slope.

Creating the island was just the first step, and even now, work continues on building and developing the Palm. There was no shortage of initial interest in the first phase properties: each of the 4,000 properties announced sold within 72 hours of the initial sales release.

Nakheel envisages it will take another five years for Palm Jumeirah to be brought to full fruition, with more hotels, luxury villas and exclusive developments under construction on the crescent.

Nakheel’s two other larger Palm projects, the Palm Jebel Ali (land reclamation works completed) and Palm Deira (started but not complete) are considered longer term developments that the company will focus on at a later date.


Development: The Palm Jumeirah
Location: Dubai
Work started: August 2001
Completed: October 2003 (land reclaimation)
Developer: Nakheel
Main contractor: Van Oord (land reclamation)
Designer: Nakheel
Cost: $12b
Size: 560 hectares
Nearest rivals: Palm Jebel Ali and Palm Deira, both still under construction