The secrets of the Burj Khalifa, an engineering marvel that is also the tallest building in the world
Human beings love challenges. And if these are related to architectural projects, even more so. Many times, we imagine skyscrapers so ambitious that they are almost impossible to build, like the X-Seed 4000. Although, in general, we usually succeed in our task of materializing megastructures. For example, the Boeing aircraft factory in Washington, United States, is currently the largest building in the world.
Another great example of our ambition, and the one that we will develop in this article, is the Burj Khalifa. Not only is he tallest building in the world, that this is really spectacular, but that it is a real work of engineering. As we say, we love a challenge, so we decided to build this mass of concrete, glass and steel in one of the worst places on the planet. In Dubai, a desert city covered in an unstable carpet of sand.
A vertical city in the heart of Dubai’s financial center
The Burj Khalifa is one of the most recent manifestations of what the United Arab Emirates wants to reflect. The country, which has long relied on its significant role in the oil industry, has begun to diversify its economy. Part of your plan as Statista collects, is to become one of the most coveted tourist destinations. And, certainly, the fact of saying that the “tallest building in the world” has been visited is an undeniable attraction.
You may be wondering how many meters we are talking about when making such a statement. According to The Skyscraper Center, the Burj Khalifa is 828 meters (829.8 meters if we count its antenna) and 162 floors. After its inauguration, in January 2010, pick up CNNsurpassed the famous Taipei 101. This building, located in Taipei, Taiwan, had 106 floors at a height of 509 meters, which is why it lost the title of the tallest building in the world at the hands of the colossal project of the Emiratis.
Inside, among other things, the building has a observation deck open to the public, a viewpoint, several hotels, one of them designed and furnished by the Italian designer Giorgio Armani, several restaurants, swimming pools, libraries and a gym. Also, it is home to some companies that have their offices. There are even several residential spaces that are home to many people. Let’s see some of the secrets of this amazing structure.
The Burj Khalifa, its construction secrets
As we can see, it is a true vertical city. Beyond all its beauty, the Burj Khalifa stands tall thanks to a innovative construction system. To develop it, the project owners, Emaar Propertieshired some of the most renowned professionals in the sector. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, the design was carried out by the American studio Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, based in Chicago. Adrian Smith and William F. Baker served as architect and structural engineer, respectively.
Baker’s team analyzed the soil where the Burj Khalifa would be built and found that the foundation had to sit on sedimentary rock, which is not comparable in stability to other rocks. Making a mistake in the construction of the foundations could mean that the building begins to sink in the future, endangering the entire project, the investment and the reputation of all the actors involved in it.
A) Yes, according to ‘Foundation design for Burj Dubai: the tallest building in the world’the team came up with the idea of building a gigantic concrete foundation known as a “raft foundation” of 3.66 meters with a depth of 7.3 meters and an area of 7,432 square meters. The entire weight of the Burj Khalifa is distributed evenly on the base, which in turn is supported by 194 concrete piles that plunge almost 50 meters deep along the sandy terrain.
Once the main obstacle had been overcome, those responsible for the project went to work on the 828-meter structure. A new challenge also appeared in this phase. How to build the building safe enough and fast enough? To do this, they implemented a system known as climbing formwork, which allowed an entire floor to be built in approximately three days. With the traditional formwork system it would have taken a week per floor.
The engineers also had to use an innovative solution to prevent the Burj Khalifa from being affected by the force of the wind. Large buildings typically have a system known as mass damper, which consists of a counterweight suspended at the top that acts with movements and prevents the structure from swinging dangerously. This solution, however, requires several floors, a sacrifice that Dubai was not willing to make.
Instead of using a mass damper, the engineers found a more effective way to counter wind forces: the building design itself. Skyscrapers often have huge flat faces that resist the pounding of the wind, but the Burj Khalifa is different. In an interview with Gulf NewsBaker explains that the building does not have a flat face that runs the full height, but instead consists of different circular design modules that literally manipulate the force of the wind.
One of the last secrets of this huge structure is its air conditioning system. In summer, temperatures in Dubai can reach or exceed 40 degrees Celsius, so keeping the building in livable condition is no easy task. At this point two solutions were implemented. On the one hand, they used smart glass double panes. These shine light in the sun instead of letting it through and help control interior temperature.
Secondly, the Burj Khalifa has its own external refrigeration plant. Known as Emaar District Cooling Plant -3, it is located approximately one kilometer from the building. As explained by Time Out Dubai, the mission of this is to supply cold water for the building’s air conditioning system through several kilometers of underground pipes. The system also draws air from the upper floors where the air is cooler and cleaner to keep the building temperature within normal parameters.
As we have seen throughout the article, the Burj Khalifa has become a reality thanks to the combination of surprising innovations. Those responsible for the project, had they not had the necessary expertise, would not have been able to build such a structure. For lovers of this type of project, there is good news. Currently there are much more ambitious projects. One of them is the Jeddah Towera 1 kilometer tall skyscraper construction began in 2013 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and could be ready in 2026.
Images: Emaar Properties | Donaldytong | Transgulfem