Building the World's Tallest Building - The Burj Khalifa

The World’s Tallest Building

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world standing at a height of 828 m (2,716.5 ft). It is not just a magnificent work of art but a unique feat in design and engineering. This stunning building situated in Dubai has become a symbol of the rich and dynamic Middle East and is an embodiment of a grand vision of the Arab world. The incomparable Burj Khalifa is also a beacon of international cooperation and progress and sets new benchmarks in global construction and unprecedented figures for the next generation of UltraSkyscrapers.

The Inauguration of the Burj Khlaifa, 04/01/2010, Dubai. Courtesy of the Dubai Mall Channel. Run Time - 4:51mins

Designing the Burj Khalifa

The truly inspired design of the Burj Khalifa was the outcome of a high-profile design competition held among the greatest designers and architects of the world. Chicago-based master of ultra-tall skyscrapers; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) won the contract. Adrian Smith FAIA, RIBA was their consulting design partner in this huge project. The final design was extensively studied to make sure the proposed structure is safe under all conditions, while meeting the unique, luxurious requirements of the proposed occupants.

The Structure of the Burj Khalifa

The awe-inspiring tower has a three-lobed footprint and a Y-shaped floor plan with three wings based around a central core, which provides torsional resistance and strength to the entire structure. This modular structure ensures a stable configuration and good floor plates for the load of residential construction. There are 26 helical levels that reduce the tower’s cross section as it goes skyward. The central core of the skyscraper emerges at the top, culminating in a sculpted spire. The tower comprises several onion domes, typical of ancient Islamic architecture.

The foundation of the superstructure incorporates a huge reinforced concrete mat measuring 3.7m thick, backed up by bored reinforced concrete piles. A cathodic protection system incorporated under the mat minimizes the harmful effects of corrosive chemicals present in the ground water which my effect the longer term stability of the reinforced metal components. The whole design was finalized after extensive seismic and geotechnical studies.

The podium serves as a base for anchoring the tower and provides access to the three different levels of the tower from three sides. The entry pavilions are fully glazed and have a suspended cable-net structure to enable separate entries for the Corporate Suites and residences at different levels of the massive structure.

In order to assess the influence of wind on the skyscraper and its inhabitants, more than 40 wind tunnel tests were carried out, which encompassed climate testing and facade pressure tests at both the base and the terraces. Ultra-tall towers are generally affected by the Stack or chimney effect, which is caused by the difference in temperature and pressure with altitude. The Burj Khalifa was subjected to special studies to assess the effect of this phenomenon and make necessary changes to the building design to mitigate against the effects.

Aesthetic Components of the Burj Khalifa

The magnificent high rise boasts a number of extravagant aesthetic design features including; a park spanning 11 hectares incorporating greenery with several water features and about 3000 underground parking spaces. The tower also has 18 building maintenance units at its exterior, equipped with cradles for window washing and façade cleaning, which are only visible when in use. But how long does it take to clean the vast windows of the Burj Khalifa? It is estimated that it will take about 3 to 4 months to clean the entire exterior of the ultra-tall tower, with all the 18 maintenance units functioning.

Interior Design of the Burj Khalifa

Nada Andric, the award-winning designer from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP led the sumptuous interior design for the tower. Nada incorporated a medley of global sophistication and Islamic culture. The sleek design sports an eclectic mix of Venetian stucco walls, silver travertine and stone flooring, and handmade rugs. The Burj Khalifa also features stainless steel, polished dark stones, and glass in its awesome interior design. The exquisite interior of the building is adorned with more than a 1,000 works of art by popular Middle Eastern and international artists.

Accommodation in the Burj Khalifa

The famous Armani Hotel adorns Levels 38 and 39 of the tower and levels 9 through 16 have luxurious residences by Armani. With a total of 160 rooms, the Armani Hotel has something to accommodate even the most demanding of guests.

Floors 45 to 108 have ultra-luxurious private homes. The rest of the floors incorporate a mix of Corporate Suites, a restaurant at level 122 and a public observatory at level 124. The homes in the tower feature exclusive Sky Lobbies atlevels 43, 76 and 123 having state-of-the-art facilities such as jacuzzis, swimming pools and recreational rooms. The pools offer a truly unique experience, designed to open to the outside balcony and for the use of residents only.

Construction of the Super-Tall Tower

In January 2004, excavation began for the construction of this global icon and it took just 1,325 days to build the world’s tallest man-made structure with a total of 160 levels. In September 2009, the tower topped out with the completion of its spire and exterior cladding was completed by January 2010.  It took 22 million man-hours to create the world’s tallest free-standing structure. Involving over 380 on-site technicians and skilled engineers, the construction started at the rate of 20 to 30 panels per day during initial installation and progressed up to 175 panels per day.

The structural system of the tower is a “buttressed core” with high performance concrete wall construction. Corridor walls from the core extend to the end of each wing to become thick hammer head walls. The system is complete with flat plate floor construction and perimeter columns, which make the towerlaterally and torsionally stiff.

The laying of the concrete and steel foundation of the structure required more than 45,000 m3 (110,000 tonnes) of concrete. The massive foundations have 192 piles buried at a depth of over 50 m (164 ft). About 39,000 tonnes (43,000 ST; 38,000 LT) of steel rebar (reinforced steel bar) and 330,000 m3 (431,600 cu yd) of concrete were used in the construction of the tower.

The total amount of aluminium used in the tower is equivalent to the aluminium in five A380 aircrafts. The exterior cladding of the tower is made up of textured stainless steel spandrel, glass, aluminum and stainless steel vertical tubular fins. About 26,000 hand-cut glass panels have been employed in this exterior cladding.

The huge reinforced concrete corewalls of the tower were cast in situ by pumping concrete from the ground level to a height of 601 m, breaking the Taipei 101’s (world’s second tallest building) pumping record of 470m. During pumping, the concrete pressure was about 200 bars. The quantity of rebar used in the construction of the ultra-tall structure is 31,400 metric tons and the length of stainless steel bull nose fins in the tower is 293 times the height of Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Interesting Facts about the Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa is an unbelievable feat of engineering, design, innovation and opulence. It has no peers in its design or execution. Apart from being the tallest building the world has ever seen, it also became the world’s tallest structure, breaking the record of the KVLY-TV mast in Blanchard, North Dakota, and the tallest free-standing structure, beating the record of Toronto’s CN Tower.

It also has a world record for its 512m high aluminium and glass façade installation and enjoys other superlatives for having the world’s highest number of floors in a building, the longest elevator in the world, the highest outdoor observation deck, and highest occupied floor.It is said that if the 31,400 metric tons of rebar used in this tower is laid end to end, it would be enough to cover a quarter of the way around the whole world!

The Burj Khalifa has aroused unprecedented global curiosity and its observatory at level 124 offers a brilliant bird’s eye view of the world and ever- changing development of Dubai below. A high-speed elevator takes visitors to the observatory deck at a speed of 10 m/s, where glass walls extend from floor to ceiling offering an unobstructed, 360-degree view of the city, ocean and the desert. Visitors can walk around the full perimeter of the deck for comprehensive views from different angles and venture out to the open-air terrace for a sweeping, breezy view.

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