Megaprojects, above all else, are defined by their potential to impact millions of people. While the $1 billion investment mark is generally accepted as the threshold for a singular project to be considered “mega,” that target moves according to the context of the country or specific location it’s in.
So while U.S. megaprojects’ construction put-in-place spending is projected to increase from around $50 billion in recent years to over $350 billion over the next decade, according to FMI Corp., other developing countries with rapidly expanding populations to support and booming economies underfoot are already way ahead of that trend. In fact, some singular projects outside of the U.S. cost what the entirely country spends a year on megadevelopments.
Here are just some of the most costly, high-profile projects underway around the globe.
The Exchange 106
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Cost: $10 Billion
The Exchange 106 is part of the Tun Razak Exchange development intended to create a globally recognized financial district in Kuala Lumpur. The centerpiece of the project stands at 1,461 feet, making it one of the tallest buildings in the world.
Last year, the massive tower came under scrutiny when funding for the burgeoning financial district went missing. Several investigations, including one by the F.B.I., found $4.5 billion missing from the project’s development fund, with $731 million of it diverted to former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, according to the New York Times.
The Exchange 106 was one of only a few Tun Razak Exchange projects to not be canceled, delayed or suspended following the scandal.
Initial construction of the 106-floor building is finished, but work on the interior is still underway. The lower floors will serve as retail space, while the office spaces begin at the tower’s sixth level. About 300,000 square feet is dedicated to retail space and an additional six underground floors will be designated for parking.
The Mulia Group, an Indonesian property developer, designed and developed the Exchange 106 with its in-house team. Construction of the tower began in May of 2016, as the area nearby was still under development.
Location: London, England
Cost: $18.5 Billion
London’s massive airport is getting a new runway. The expansion to build the international airport’s third runway was approved and announced last year, and is expected to be completed in 2026. The addition was first proposed 29 years ago, and is part of a larger expansion that will continue until 2050.
The “masterplan” that will take 30 years to complete will introduce new access points and terminals to the airport. The new runway alone will require rerouting major nearby roadways and has faced environmental and community pushback following an opening to the public for inquiries.
According to the masterplan, the new area will include indoor and outdoor spaces. Runway construction will lead to the demolishing of an entire village of 750 homes near to the airport.
Al Maktoum Airport
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Cost: $32.7 Billion
A planned expansion of the Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai will make the airportt the largest in the world, in terms of both physical size and traffic. The lofty goal is expected to be achieved in 2050.
Early phases of construction are projected to be completed in the next six to eight years, and will lead to the airport serving about 220 million passengers a year, alleviating the pressure at Dubai National Airport, which has less room for expansion, according to Airport Technology.
When finished, the expansion will raise the number of arrival and departure terminals and increase the size of the facility to about 1.57 million square feet. When it first opened in 2013, the passenger terminal was just over 711 thousand feet. The projects’ two main phases will incorporate four new runways.
Abu Dhabi-based Al Jaber LEFT Engineering & Contracting won the passenger terminal expansion contract, which was designed by Leslie Jones Architecture, in London. The project is being overseen by the Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects (DAEP).
Cost: $52 billion
While Japan is famous for its bullet trains, another innovative form of transport will soon join the country’s public transit options. Central Japan Railway Company is building the Chuo Shinkansen, a magnetic levitation train project that, upon completion, will slash travel times between Tokyo and Nagoya by 50% compared to the current maglev train, according to Railway Technology.
The project dates back to 1990, when geographical studies began. Construction began in late 2015, and Phase 1, which will stretch from Shinagawa to Nagoya, is expected to be complete in 2027.
The first route under construction will be up to 177.5 miles of super conductive maglev line, much of that distance through tunnels. Powerful electromagnets will allow the trains to levitate above the tracks, allowing for much higher speeds. Tests on a different maglev line have shown that the new train can travel up to 375 mph.
South-North Water Transfer Project
Cost: $62 billion
The massive engineering project designed to divert water from the south of China to drier northern regions took a half-century to begin, and it will likely be decades before it’s finished. The project will connect China’s four major rivers and create water diversion routes that stretch across the country.
The project will divert 11.8 trillion gallons of water annually to the highly populated northern cities like Beijing and Tianjin. Construction on the water transfer and diversions, which has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, has missed several construction deadlines. The projected is estimated to be completed in 2050, nearly 100 years after it was first proposed by Mao Zedong in 1952.