Geotechnical investigation and pile testing for tallest building in the world

Chris Haberfield and Darren Paul, Principals at Golder Associates


Golder Associates was the geotechnical engineer for the Nakheel Tower in Dubai. The tower was to form the centre piece of the Nakheel Harbour and Tower development in the heart of “new Dubai”. With a planned height of over 1 km and a dead weight in excess of 2,000,000 tonnes, the tower was planned to become not only the world’s tallest building but also one of the heaviest. The bearing pressures applied to the ground coupled with the soft rock ground conditions present at the site provided a significant challenge to the design of the footing system.

The speakers were key members of the geotechnical design team for the design of the foundations of the tower. Chris and Darren will present an overview of the tower and provide details of the ground investigation and geotechnical engineering undertaken which led to the development of the footing solution finally adopted. Due to the GFC the construction of the tall tower was put on hold with the foundations two thirds completed.

About the presenters

Chris HaberfieldChris Haberfield is a Principal of Golder Associates Pty Ltd. He has extensive experience in foundation design and analysis including those for many tall buildings in Australia and throughout the Middle East (including the not-completed 1200 m high Nakheel Tower in Dubai which is the subject of this talk). Chris has published in excess of 140 refereed papers and was awarded the 2007 E H Davis Memorial Lecture by the AGS for his work in foundations in weak rock and the Gregory Tschebotarioff Lecture 2017 for contributions to soil structure interaction analysis by the ISSMGE.


Darren PaulDarren is also Principal at Golder Associates in Melbourne. He consults on building and infrastructure projects in Australia and overseas. His key area of expertise is in developing ground models, identifying and assessing ground related risk. In Melbourne, he has worked on the Burnley Tunnel, the Eureka Tower, Freshwater Place, Regional Rail and recently the Melbourne Metro Rail Project. He has also worked in Dubai as geotechnical project manager for the once proposed world’s tallest building, the Nakheel Tower, the subject of this talk.

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