Saudi investment company Kingdom Holding has shortlisted three architects to prepare the concept design for its planned 1-kilometre-tall Kingdom Tower.

If it goes ahead with the ambitious project, the tower in Jeddah Kingdom City will replace the 818-metre Burj Dubai as the world’s tallest building.

The shortlisted groups are the US’ Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill Architecture, and US-based Pickard Chilton in partnership with UK-based Hyder Consulting.

In July, seven groups submitted proposals to Dubai-based Emaar Properties, which is managing the development for Kingdom Holdings. Emaar is also managing the entire 23-square-kilometre Jeddah Kingdom City, which will be built around Kingdom Tower.

Kingdom Holding has shortlisted three contracting groups for the deal to complete the design and build the tower.

They are South Korea’s Samsung Corporation with Dubai-based Arabtec Construction, Australia’s Multiplex, and Saudi Binladin Group.

Developers normally involve contractors at a much later stage in their projects. Generally, they prefer to get finished designs from their architects before inviting contractors to bid for the contract to build the project.

As Kingdom Holding will award a design and build contract, it needs to involve the shortlisted contractors earlier than usual since the winning contractor needs to work with the architect on the design of Kingdom Tower before it begins construction.

By involving the contractor early in the process, Kingdom Holding hopes the contractor will help make the design cheaper to build – an especially important consideration when building towers more than 300 metres tall.

Regional developers have started talking to contractors during the design process in previous megaprojects. Dubai-based developer Nakheel adopted a similar approach for the 1.4km-tall tower it planned to build in Dubai.

Throughout 2006, 2007 and 2008, it held workshops with contractors to make the project easier. It has now shelved the tower along with most of its other major real estate projects due to the worsening of the economic crisis in the autumn of 2008.

All the shortlisted groups for Kingdom Tower have sufficient high-rise experience to advise Kingdom Holding and Emaar.

Architects and contractors have worked on many high-rise projects in the Middle East over the past few years because developers frequently launched tower projects in an attempt to inflate land values in surrounding developments they owned.

Emaar successfully pioneered this model in Dubai with the Downtown Burj Dubai district surrounding the Burj Dubai, which is due to be completed in December this year.

US-based real estate consultant Colliers International says the development attracts better prices than other projects in Dubai.

According to its second quarter 2009 house price index, the average price per square foot of property in Dubai was AED1,062 ($290), including the Downtown Burj Dubai development. Excluding Downtown Burj Dubai from the index, the average price per square foot was AED994.n