Burj Khalifa : Story of world’s tallest building

Mankind has always been in pursuit of the bigger and better, expanding the horizons to new highs of technology and awestruck-ness. Astronomically mega ancient structures like Babel, Pyramids, Machu Picchu and Petra; all stand witness to the highly inclined bent of humankind to produce mega structures to personify magnanimity.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai’s fortune cookie, an 828-meter high masterpiece aimed for greatness and took the high ground. The journey is a significant one, one that would be told by many and to many: a legend in the making.

It is the pet project and a live example of an insightful business thought process of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Who according to officials, ’wanted to put Dubai on the world map with something really sensational’ and boy! he surely did it and in style with a bang . Something euphoric and melodious to the core.

World’s tallest building

Burj Khalifa photoBurj Khalifa is the tallest freestanding structure in the world standing tall at 829.8 meters (The second tallest is merely at a height of 646.38 meters) with a whopping 163 floors of construction which include 30,000 residential properties, nine hotels, and numerous corporate units. It has world’s longest travel distance elevators which add on to 504 meters.

You’ll be awestruck to know that the amount of building material used in the construction of the Burj if kept side by side is enough to cover a distance equivalent to ¼ of our planet earth. The building has a temperature difference of 6 degrees between the top and ground floor which just adds on to poke us enough to get to uncover more and more about this flabbergast structure.

Inception of the idea

Every great idea is the result of necessity, and desperation to survive and prove be the fittest of the lot”

The Emir of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, realized that the oil reserves aren’t going to last forever and petrodollars could not be rallied behind anymore. So the economy highly dependence on the revenue from petroleum and natural gas was to be diversified diverted to some reliable source, which needed to be created . And with the trade route revenue coming to stagnation, the stage for the tourism industry was set. With Burj Khalifa as the flag bearer of the crusade.Now, the city was to be turned into a world-class tourist heaven for the survival of its own.

The year 2001, with the vision in place the and nothing of the coast of Dubai except the warm, shallow repellent gulf water. Questions started pouring in bundles, they varied from financial to technical to political but the most hostile ones were those questioning the genesis. Not many construction experts (designers, engineers, architect) had the privileges to be part of assignments with such altitude, and other climatic conditions. Therefore, the hunt for the pertinent set of experts was an uphill task.

Never the less the project was bagged by the Emaar Properties. Even though the project was allotted to Emaar, the expertise came in from all around the world. ‘Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)’ was the architecture firm behind the design and engineering of the tower, who by then had the tag of designing the Wills Tower in Chicago and also the new One World Trade Center in the New York City.

Technical hurdles and the trumps over

The conditions for SOM were far from similar to any other assignments they ever headed. Here the heat was top notch with temperatures touching as high as 50 degrees, and with the humidity playing its part it becomes all the more tough.But the wind was the most brutal of the hindrances in construction, Dubai being a port city. Wind forces and the resulting motions in the upper levels proved to be a very dominant factor in the ultimate design. Even at the commencement of the tower the design was far from complete.

Time was money as a humongous amount was invested in and to save time new advanced ways were put to use like jump forming, which helped in cutting short the duration by half. For construction, responsibility was held by Samsung C&T South Korea, it had prior experience of working on the Petronas Twin Tower and Taipei 101 to name a few.

Early stage 2004 construction photo of Burj Khalifa
Early stage construction of Burj Khalifa in 2004

On 6th January 2004 the construction began , with the initial belief to erect a monument just 10 meters about the height of the previous highest tower (to be incorporated with residential property only). Tackling hurdle was a ritual for the team, but this one was to take up a lot of their time.

The concrete’s concentration, to be used in for the establishment of the structure, was to be held at a particular measure. And it didn’t seem to be possible for the concrete to withstand a mammoth load of the thousands of tonnes flooding on it, in addition to the Persian Gulf temperatures which can be brutal reaching up to 50 degrees Celsius. To battle it out specifically in the days of summer, the concrete was not flushed when the sun was up and rising. In addition, ice and chilled water were a definite addition to the concrete. This was also because a cooler concrete tends to settle evenly every bit and, the odds of setting up too quickly and forming a crack are diminished.

“I was ecstatic to get a job like this. It’s like a dream come true.”

– David Bradford (Construction Manager of Burj Khalifa)

Days passed and any the warriors ( fighting and overcoming different hurdles on daily bases, at least gives me a right to call them a warrior ) of great will reached quite high and almost 3/4 the of the construction was a bygone. The decision to increase the length of the structured was finalized by the architects. After performing various tests and calculation, and considering numerous possibility it was concluded that gaining a height up to 800 meters was a possibility.

Life had been very mercifully eventful for the designers and the architects. They had to be at their best, with always their A game to put on a show. They were almost the luckiest of the lot, getting a chance to evolve with every bit. To support such gigantic height of the Burj they had to come up with altogether a different structural system design, something never heard of before.

cross-section image of Burj Khalifa
Cross-section of Burj Khalifa from top to bottom.

This new structural system was termed as the ‘buttressed core’. It consists of a hexagonal core reinforced by three buttresses that form the ‘Y’ shape. The floor plan of the basic structure is composed of the ‘Y’ shaped plan, consisting of three distinct wings of the building buttressing each other via common connection with the six – sided central core. At every instance when the tower takes a flight, one of the wings take a spiral pattern and takes the back seat, further spotlighting its height.

The ‘Y’ shaped structural design doesn’t just possess the functional and aesthetic worth, it also is exemplary in providing with a high performance, stable efficient structure. The structure is designed in such unique way that it supports self and keeps self from twisting in high – intensity windy conditions. A lot goes into consideration while finalizing a structural design for a building, for Burj wind forces and constructibility took the high ground.

The Emir of Dubai specifically wanted the Burj to have a traditional Islamic touch, Therefore, traditional Islamic formations were put to in use to enrich the Burj Khalifa, and its basic structure is derived from Islamic Architecture. To give a the structure a historic and cultural tinge of the surrounding region, for instance, the spiral minaret.

Financial Crunch

Vision and will are not the only necessities to get something materialistic done. Capital is the third equivalently important pillar required fulfill trinity clause.

The final cost of the Burj Khalifa was something that was outside the jurisdiction of calculation due to the humongous nature of the entity. So they started off without any decent idea about how much to spend, this was not such clever a step. To add on to the situation The Great Recession of 2007 – 2011 struck the construction boom in Dubai affecting the work at the Burj Khalifa.

In the year 2009, the emirate shocked investors by asking for a freeze on payments owed on its $26 billion in debts. Dubai emirate was highly debt – ridden, but then the help came in from the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He helped the emirates of Dubai to clear of its debts and finance the constructions.


Burj Khalifa opening ceremony 2010
Burj Khalifa opening ceremony (Source)

Six years in the making, on 4th January 2010 , the Burj Dubai’s opening ceremony was held and with it changed the name to Burj Khalifa. Even till the evening of Jan 4, 2010, the building known to be Burj Dubai.

The Sheikh Mohammad the Ruler of Dubai named the building as Burj Khalifa bin Zayed, after the President of UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan. This was so done as to represent the token of gratitude towards Emirates of Abu Dhabi help and represent that Dubai will always be in debt of gratitude.

The legend is hence assembled and stands tall. It will hold its fort strong and steady to be a reminder to the mankind has evolved and achieved. To never let us forget the journey progressed from the small dark caves to 100 – metre pyramid to a giant skyscraper like this. No doubt there ought to be bigger and better projects in the near future. But the significance and influence that the Burj Khalifa holds, is some greatness that would be achieved by very few lucky ones. Bars are elevated for greatness.

“Take wisdom from the wise.
It takes a man of vision to write on water.
Not everyone who rides a horse is a jockey.
Great men rise to greater challenges.”

–  Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum

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Saurabh Jakhar

Saurabh Jakhar

Words are flirtatious and enrapturing, provided the choreographer is aware of the tune and I love to be the "aware" one.

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