Burj Khalifa: World’s Tallest Building

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

US$1.5bn project took six years to complete

The world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, celebrates the 10th anniversary of its topping out ceremony today, just over nine years since it first opened to the public on 4 January 2010.

Soaring over the city at an impressive 828 metres, the towering structure is a marvel of not only engineering but also imagination and design. The centerpiece of a large mixed-use development, it contains offices, retail space, residential units and a Giorgio Armani hotel.

A Y-shaped floor plan maximizes views of the Arabian Gulf and, at ground level, the tower is surrounded by green space, water features and pedestrian-friendly boulevards.

Inspired by an abstraction of the Hymenocallis desert flower, the US$1.5 billion project is the conceptual heart and soul of the city and took six years to complete, with more than 12,000 international workers on site per day at the peak of construction logging a collective 22 million man hours of work on the structure.

The Burj Khalifa is twice the height of New York's Empire State Building and three times as tall as the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It even surpassed Taiwan's Taipei 101, which at 508 metres had held the world title since it opened in 2004.

The skyscraper is essentially three sections arranged around a central core. Viewed from above, it is consistent with the onion-dome shape frequently found across a variety of Islamic architecture, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Its overall design was inspired by the geometries of the Hymenocallis and the patterning systems embodied in Islamic architecture. Built of reinforced concrete and clad in glass, the tower is composed of sculpted volumes arranged around a central buttressed core. As the tower rises from a flat base, setbacks occur in an upward spiraling pattern, reducing the building’s mass as it reaches skyward. At the pinnacle, the central core emerges and forms a spire.

The towering property was developed by Emaar Properties and architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, headed up by renowned American architect Adrian Smith. Everything about the Burj is superlative and involves huge numbers: almost 26,000 hand-cut glass panels were used in the exterior cladding and it takes about three months to clean the structure from top to bottom.

The individual stalks that rise out around the central spire deflect most wind around the building, with chief structural engineer Bill Baker describing it as 'confusing the wind'.

Beyond its record-breaking height, the Burj Khalifa incorporates new structural and construction efficiencies to reduce material usage and waste. These include a 'sky-sourced' ventilation system in which cool, less humid air is drawn in through the top of the building. The tower also has one of the largest condensate recovery systems in the world.

In the course of confirming it as the World’s tallest building, Guinness World Records also ratified a number of other achievements for the ground-breaking structure which boasts the tallest elevator in a building at 504m and has the most floors in a building (163). It also has the highest restaurant from ground level at 441m.

One of the Burj’s most impressive features is the 555-metre-high observation deck on the 148th floor, which was formerly the highest in the world until China’s 632m Shanghai Tower opened one at 561m in 2015. But the Burj Khalifa boasts not one but two observations decks, also having a two-storey platform on the 124th and 125th floors.

On New Year's Eve 2015, Dubai’s most famous landmark hosted a spectacular display in which fireworks erupted from the top and every side of the skyscraper and, in a little under 10 minutes, more than 1.6 tonnes were released, setting a new record for the highest fireworks on a building.

The mighty structure has also served as the stage for many other record attempts, including the highest 'base' jump from a building and the fastest time to climb the Burj by bicycle (2hr 20min 38sec).

For more information visit the Burj Khalifa website.