Burj Khalifa – The Tallest Building

Written by Maqsood A. Rahim

Burj Khalifa


The ruler of Dubai, Sh. Muhammed bin Rashid al Makdoum, wanted Dubai to be known for something very special and unique, besides his intention to diversify from trade base economy to a service and tourism oriented. Burj Dubai has returned the title to the Middle East, once again, for having the tallest building. This was snatched by Lincoln Cathedral, England, in 1311 from the Great Pyramid of Giza (Middle East) which remained the highest man made structure for four millennium years.

Burj Dubai is designed by M/s Skidmore Owings and Merrill – Andrian Smith being the main architect till 2006. This company also designed Willis Tower in Chicago, World Trade Centre in New York, besides numeral high rises. This design is similar to planned tower The Illinois, a mile high skyscraper. The original intention of promoters of Burj Dubai was a residential tower with 73 floors. Andrian Smith proposed major changes in height to make top crown section to look more elegant. The steel frame super structure (antenna) at the top is designed so as to vary its height as desired to maintain the tallest rating.

The Burj design resembles the flower Hymenocallis. The three lobed elements wrap around the tower core, rising in spiral form. The cross section area is reduced in periodic set-backs, narrowing the tower as it rises. The Y-shape structure design offers wide aerial view of the Persian Gulf from all sides. The exterior of the building is covered by stainless steel panels, glazed for maximum reflection of light and heat to with stand and reduce extreme summer temperatures to comfortable levels. However, top floors will stay 6oC (11oF) cooler than the base floors-by height differential. The structural design limits the tower sway by wind pressures to a maximum of 1.2m (4ft) at the highest point.

The construction contractor is Samsung Engineering and Construction. They also built PETRONAS Twin Towers and Taipei 101. The structure uses reinforced concrete. The tower base is supported by 192 concrete piles dug in 50m (164ft) deep. The huge height needed concrete pumping by very special pumps. Most of the concrete, mixed with ice, was poured at night to prolong setting time for uniform cool curing to avoid any cracking possibility, under massive weight of the structure.

The seven hundred private apartments have been laid out on floors 45 through 108. These were sold completely within the same day of offer. The Armani Hotel occupies lower 37 floors. The remaining floors and spiral towers will house thousands of office suites and mini homes. A swimming pool is located at 78th floor, while 123rd is a lobby. 124th floor will contain indoor / outdoor observation / security deck. The top spire will hold communication equipments. An estimated 38000 persons can be housed at one time. Double deck super fast elevators are being installed. Further the project includes, 7 acre Parkland, Dubai Mall and a 30 acre man made Dubai Lake.

Dubai Fountain

A very costly (DH 800 Million) fountain has been installed on the outside of Burj Dubai, this is 900 ft long and shoots water jets 500 ft upwards. Over 600 lights through 50 color projectors illuminate it, accompanied by world class and traditional music.

Check illustration

Height Increases History

The original plan was a 73 story residential building. The upper limit was revised many times (secretly) probably to push through height ratings. These changes created a sort of history as it rose above the recorded towers one by one. In February 2007, it crossed the Willis Tower. Continuing progress over other middle order ones, it topped the highest Warsaw Radio Mast in Poland, Standing at 628.8m (1815ft.), on first September 2008. Burj Dubai achieved its ultimate height, finishing at 818m (2684ft.) on 17th January 2009. Inauguration is expected in December 2009.

The National Geographic and other TV Channels have shown documentaries on the Big, Bigger and Biggest series, detailing the typical engineering challenges faced by the builders during construction, compelling design changes and altering completion schedule twice.

Technical Statistics on the World’s Tallest Sky Scrapper and (Part of Downtown Burj Dubai Project)

Building height: 818m (2684 ft.) – (Half mile or 0.8 Km)

Top Antenna or Spire: 200 m (700 ft.)

Floors and Area: 162 usable floors, each 334’000m2 (3’595’100 sq. ft.)

Architect: Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (Adrian Smith till 2006)

Developer: EMAAR Properties, South Korea.

Completion: Expected 2nd December 2009 (Extended Twice) Construction started 21st September 2004

Occupancy: Offices, Hotels and Residences.

Previous Highest building: Taipei (101 Floors) 509.2 m (1671 ft.) and Willis Tower (Sears Tower) 527.3m (including antenna)

Price Project: Burj Dubai over US& 4 Billion while total Downtown Burj Dubai US& 20 Billion.

Price Office: Over US$ 43’000 per m2 (2009)

Price Residence: Over US$ 38’000 per m2 (2009)

Record Comparisons:

Burj Dubai Previous Tallest

Tallest with 160 Floors                                                                      World Trade Centre 110 Floors

  1. Tallest Free Standing Structure 818m                                           KVLY TV Host 628.8m
  2. Tallest Free Standing Structure 818m                                          CN Tower 553.3m

World’s Fastest Elevators at speeds of 60 km/h or 16.7m / second. First World’s tallest building to include residential homes.

Burj Dubai or Dubai Tower,The World’s Tallest Sky Scrapper


About the author

Maqsood A. Rahim


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