Samsung Engineering and Construction Corp.’s Kyung-Jun Kim, vice president and project director for the tallest building in the world—the 800-meter-plus Burj Dubai—cut his teeth on supertall skyscraper construction, building one of the twin, 452-meter Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. On that job, which opened in 1998, Kim says he learned how to best use the automatic climbing form system, how to control verticality and how to keep a four-day-per-story cycle. He also learned about grand-scale logistics, planning and quality control.

Kim follows orders by declining to reveal the final height.
Photo: Samsung
Kim follows orders by declining to reveal the final height.


Petronas was no bus driver’s holiday, but the burj is even more demanding. Not only is it almost twice as tall, it is located in an extremely harsh climate, by comparison, and has a very different structural system. The burj is all reinforced concrete to level 156, except for its concrete outriggers with embedded steel. Above that, it is structural steel culminating in a steel pipe pinnacle. To complete one concrete level on the burj, “we had to cast 38 different concrete locations,” says Kim. He says a major challenge was to compensate for 650 mm of anticipated column shortening by adding space every floor. If not, the curtain wall and other systems wouldn’t have fit, he says.

Records are set everywhere on the tower. Currently there are a record 9,500 workers on site. The latest record, however, is having achieved the topping out, Jan. 10 (see p. 9). With pinnacle jacking done, sources say the tower has surpassed 800 m. Local developer Emaar Properties PJSC has hinted it may never release the final height, rumored at 806 m. “I have a letter from Emaar saying, ‘don’t announce anything’” about the height, says Kim.

Kim moved to Dubai in 2005, after the Seoul-based Samsung and its burj partners, the local Arabtec Construction LLC and a local unit of Belgium’s Besix Group., beat seven other groups for the job. Kim works from 6 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m. at least six days a week. He directs the job’s 30 subcontractors. The team represents 42 nationalities. Manager meetings are conducted in English, but it is “Korean-English, German-English” and so on, says Kim. Still, “everybody understands each other very clearly,” he says.

Samsung Corp.’s project director is leading the team constructing the record-shattering tallest building in the world, the Burj Dubai.

Kim, an architect and an engineer by education, keeps himself well-informed, which puts him “in a strong position to make the key decisions necessary to deliver” the job, says John Mills, project director, Hyder Consulting Middle East Ltd, Dubai, the tower’s construction supervisor and designer of record. “He is strong-willed,” but he listens to others, adds Mills.

William F. Baker, structural partner in the Chicago office of burj architect-engineer Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, adds, “K-J Kim has done an extraordinary job leading the team.”