Jeddah’s Kingdom Tower lifts off

The first stage of the installation of the elevators and escalators in Saudi Arabia’s one kilometre tall Kingdom Tower is now underway.

Finnish company KONE is now on site as the project – developed by Jeddah Economic Company – to construct what will be the world’s tallest building gains momentum.

The team is currently working on pre-installation activities concerning the fitting of the elevator system’s guiderails, which is expected to begin towards the end of this year.

This work , as well as the eventual installation of the KONE elevator cars, will then progress as the Kingdom Tower’s central structure rises over the coming years, prior to its projected completion in 2018.

The Kingdom Tower, designed by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture, is being built by Saudi Bin Laden Group and will have the world’s fastest double deck elevators with travel speed of over 10 m/s. It will house offices, a Four Seasons hotel and serviced apartments, residential apartments as well as the world’s tallest observation spot.

For a building with such unprecedented height, KONE will deliver: the world’s fastest and highest DoubleDeck elevators, supported by the revolutionary UltraRope technology, as well as the latest People Flow Intelligence solutions.

“I am delighted we are now at the stage of taking the next leap with KONE in the construction of the Kingdom Tower,” said Mounib Hammoud, CEO of Jeddah Economic Company, owner and developer of the Kingdom Tower and Kingdom City.

“It will not only be the world’s tallest building – it will also be the greatest. Soaring into the sky it is a vertical city which will define luxury living.”

KONE started looking at ways to develop high-rise technology in the late 1990s and use the test facility to experiment beyond what was currently available.

In tall buildings the height an elevator can reach is limited by the weight of steel ropes needed to hoist it. The rope has to pull up not only the car and the flexible travelling cables that take electricity and communications to it, but also all the rope beneath it.

The job is made easier by counterweights but in a lift 500 metres tall steel ropes account for up to 75% of the moving mass of the machine. Shifting this mass takes energy, so taller lifts are more expensive to run.

Making the ropes longer would risk the steel would snapping under the load. But KONE says it is able to reduce the weight of lift ropes by around 90% withUltraRope.

Its engineers say carbon fibres are both stronger and lighter than steel and have great tensile strength, meaning they are hard to break when their ends are pulled. That strength comes from the chemical bonds between carbon atoms: – the same process that gives such strength to diamonds.

According to Johannes de Jong, KONE head of technology for large projects, the steel ropes in a 400m-high lift weigh about 18,650kg. An UltraRope for such a lift would weigh 1,170kg.

Besides reducing power consumption, lighter ropes make braking a car easier should something go wrong. Carbon-fibre ropes should also, according to de Jong, cut maintenance bills, because they will last twice as long as steel ones.

He also said carbon fibre resonates at a different frequency to other building materials, which means it sways less as skyscrapers move in high winds—which is what tall buildings are designed to do. At the moment a high wind can cause a building’s lifts to be shut down. Carbon-fibre ropes would mean that happened less often.

Hammoud said: “Building the tallest tower in the world is about human ingenuity and the strength of the materials used. Based on this premise, KONE is the only vertical transportation service provider in the world capable of delivering what we need at the Kingdom Tower – specifically the capability of travelling at a speed of over 10 meters per second with DoubleDeck elevators to reach the highest liveable floor in the world in 52 seconds.

“In addition, the high-speed elevators will rise 660 meters to the observation deck, making it the world’s highest elevator rise.

“Furthermore, with the use of KONE UltraRope, which is one-third of the weight of traditional ropes, we will be able to fit the DoubleDeck elevators with normal machines, a huge advantage that will enhance the sustainability of the Kingdom Tower by consuming much less power.”

The design for UltraRope was pioneered at a research facility close to the Finnish town of Tytyri, which includes the world’s tallest elevator test tower. This drops to a level 350m below ground.

“People always ask why go down when you are developing the means to travel to the top of tall buildings,” says Santeri Suoranta, KONE’s director of high rise technology.

“Cost is one reason – this mine shaft was already in place and we just needed to adapt it. We turned the conventional idea of a test tower upside down. As more and more people start to live in cities space becomes more important so buildings get higher and elevators become more and more important.”

The mine – part of which is still in operation and producing limestone – provides an ideal testing environment because of the temperature and climatic conditions it offers as well as the long shaft.

Suoranta added: “Tytyri is the only test shaft in the world where elevator speeds of up to 17 m/s can be reached, although for us 10 m/s is the usual speed due to the demands pressure changes put on the human body.”

The company first installed the technology in the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore and Suoranta said it was performing even better than expected and energy usage was lower than had been predicted.

The company is also working on using the technology in 10 other projects across the world.

“This new lightweight cable will let buildings soar ever upward,” said KONE vice-president Noud Veeger. “Architects can build higher and they can also build greener as the new system uses far less power and its cables are far lighter.

“At present in any high-rise building to get to the top a change of lifts is necessary. But a single ride from the ground to the summit will add so much more of a wow-factor for people. That is what our work has developed.”