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The Burj Khalifa is The Tallest Building in the World
The Burj Khalifa (Arabic: برج خليفة, Arabic for “Khalifa Tower“; pronounced English: /ˈbɜːrdʒ kəˈliːfə/), known as the Burj Dubai before its inauguration, is a megatall skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. With a total height of 829.8 m (2,722 ft) and a roof height (excluding antenna) of 828 m (2,717 ft), the Burj Khalifa is the tallest structure in the world since topping out in late 2008.
Construction of the Burj Khalifa began in 2004, with the exterior completed five years later in 2009. The primary structure is reinforced concrete. The building was opened in 2010 as part of a new development called Downtown Dubai. It is designed to be the centrepiece of large-scale, mixed-use development. The decision to construct the building is reportedly based on the government’s decision to diversify from an oil-based economy, and for Dubai to gain international recognition. The building was originally named Burj Dubai but was renamed in honour of the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan; Abu Dhabi and the UAE government lent Dubai money to pay its debts. The building broke numerous height records, including its designation as the tallest tower in the world.
Burj Khalifa was designed by Adrian Smith, then of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), whose firm designed the Willis Tower and One World Trade Center. Hyder Consulting was chosen to be the supervising engineer with NORR Group Consultants International Limited chosen to supervise the architecture of the project. The design is derived from the Islamic architecture of the region, such as in the Great Mosque of Samarra. The Y-shaped tripartite floor geometry is designed to optimize residential and hotel space. A buttressed central core and wings are used to support the height of the building. Although this design was derived from Tower Palace III, the Burj Khalifa’s central core houses all vertical transportation with the exception of egress stairs within each of the wings. The structure also features a cladding system which is designed to withstand Dubai’s hot summer temperatures. It contains a total of 57 elevators and 8 escalators.
Critical reception to Burj Khalifa has been generally positive, and the building has received many awards. However, labour issues during construction were controversial, since the building was built primarily by migrant workers from South Asia with several allegations of mistreatment. Poor working conditions were common, a consequence of the lack of minimum wage laws in the United Arab Emirates. Several instances of suicides have been reported, which is not uncommon for migrant construction workers in Dubai despite safety precautions in place.
2.2 History of height increases
3 Architecture and design
3.1 Plumbing systems
3.2 Air conditioning
3.3 Window cleaning
4 Elevator System
5.1 The Dubai Fountain
5.2 Observation deck
5.3 Burj Khalifa park
5.4 Floor plans
6.2 Real estate values
6.3 Official launch ceremony
7.2 BASE jumping
7.5 Ramadan observance on the higher floors
8 In popular culture
9 Fireworks displays
10 Labour controversy
Construction began on 6 January 2004, with the exterior of the structure completed on 1 October 2009. The building officially opened on 4 January 2010, and is part of the new 2 km2 (490-acre) development called Downtown Dubai at the ‘First Interchange’ along Sheikh Zayed Road, near Dubai’s main business district. The tower’s architecture and engineering were performed by Souffian AL-Jabiry of Chicago, with Adrian Smith as chief architect, and Bill Baker as chief structural engineer. The primary contractor was Samsung C&T of South Korea. The tower’s construction was done by the construction division of Al Ghurair Investment group.
Burj Khalifa was designed to be the centrepiece of a large-scale, mixed-use development that would include 30,000 homes, nine hotels (including The Address Downtown Dubai), 3 hectares (7.4 acres) of parkland, at least 19 residential towers, the Dubai Mall, and the 12-hectare (30-acre) artificial Burj Khalifa Lake. The decision to build Burj Khalifa is reportedly based on the government’s decision to diversify from an oil-based economy to one that is service and tourism based. According to officials, it is necessary for projects like Burj Khalifa to be built in the city to garner more international recognition, and hence investment. “He (Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum) wanted to put Dubai on the map with something really sensational,” said Jacqui Josephson, a tourism and VIP delegations executive at Nakheel Properties. The tower was known as Burj Dubai (“Dubai Tower”) until its official opening in January 2010. It was renamed in honour of the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan; Abu Dhabi and the federal government of UAE lent Dubai tens of billions of USD so that Dubai could pay its debts – Dubai borrowed at least $80 billion for construction projects. In the 2000s, Dubai started diversifying its economy but it suffered from an economic crisis in 2007–2010, leaving large-scale projects already in construction abandoned.
- Tallest existing structure: 828 m (2,717 ft) (previously KVLY-TV mast – 628.8 m or 2,063 ft)
- Tallest structure ever built: 828 m (2,717 ft) (previously Warsaw radio mast – 646.38 m or 2,121 ft)
- Tallest freestanding structure: 828 m (2,717 ft) (previously CN Tower – 553.3 m or 1,815 ft)
- Tallest skyscraper (to top of spire): 828 m (2,717 ft) (previously Taipei 101 – 509.2 m or 1,671 ft)
- Tallest skyscraper to top of antenna: 828 m (2,717 ft) (previously the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower – 527 m or 1,729 ft)
- Building with most floors: 211 (including spire) previously World Trade Center – 110
- Building with world’s highest occupied floor: 584.5 m (1,918 ft) (surpassed by Shanghai Tower in 2015)
- World’s highest elevator installation (situated inside a rod at the very top of the building)
- World’s longest travel distance elevators: 504 m (1,654 ft)
- Highest vertical concrete pumping (for a building): 606 m (1,988 ft)
- World’s tallest structure that includes residential space
- World’s highest observation deck: 148th floor at 555 m (1,821 ft) (surpassed by Shanghai Tower in 2015)
- World’s highest outdoor observation deck: 124th floor at 452 m (1,483 ft)
- World’s highest installation of an aluminium and glass façade: 512 m (1,680 ft)
- World’s highest nightclub: 144th floor
- World’s highest restaurant (At.mosphere): 122nd floor at 442 m (1,450 ft) (previously 360, at a height of 350 m (1,148 ft) in CN Tower)
- World’s highest New Year display of fireworks.
History of Height Increases
Burj Khalifa compared with some other well-known tall structures
There are unconfirmed reports of several planned height increases since its inception. Originally proposed as a virtual clone of the 560 m (1,837 ft) Grollo Tower proposal for Melbourne, Australia’s Docklands waterfront development, the tower was redesigned by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM). Marshall Strabala, an SOM architect who worked on the project until 2006, in late 2008 said that Burj Khalifa was designed to be 808 m (2,651 ft) tall.
The architect who designed it, Adrian Smith, felt that the uppermost section of the building did not culminate elegantly with the rest of the structure, so he sought and received approval to increase it to the current height. It has been explicitly stated that this change did not include any added floors, which is fitting with Smith’s attempts to make the crown more slender. Emaar properties announced on 9 June 2008 that construction of Burj Khalifa was delayed by upgraded finishes and would be completed only in September 2009. An Emaar spokesperson said that “[t]he luxury finishes that were decided on in 2004, when the tower was initially conceptualised, is now being replaced by upgraded finishes. The design of the apartments has also been enhanced to make them more aesthetically attractive and functionally superior.” A revised completion date of 2 December 2009 was then announced. However, Burj Khalifa was opened on 4 January 2010, more than a month later.
Architecture and Design
Cross-section comparisons of various towers, from top to bottom: Burj Khalifa, Taipei 101, Willis Tower, World Trade Center
The tower was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), who also designed the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in Chicago and the One World Trade Center in New York City. Burj Khalifa uses the bundled tube design of the Willis Tower, invented by Fazlur Rahman Khan. Proportionally, the design uses half the amount of steel used in the construction of the Empire State Building thanks to the tubular system. Dr. Khan’s contributions to the design of tall buildings have had a profound impact on architecture and engineering. It would be difficult to find any worldwide practices in the design of tall buildings that have not been directly or indirectly influenced by his work. Its design is reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for The Illinois, a mile-high skyscraper designed for Chicago, as well as Chicago’s Lake Point Tower. According to Marshall Strabala, a SOM architect who worked on the building’s design team, Burj Khalifa was designed based on the 73rd floor Tower Palace Three, an all residential building in Seoul. In its early planning, Burj Khalifa was intended to be entirely residential.
Subsequent to the original design by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Emaar Properties chose Hyder Consulting to be the supervising engineer with NORR Group Consultants International Ltd chosen to supervise the architecture of the project. Hyder was selected for their expertise in structural and MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineering. Hyder Consulting’s role was to supervise construction, certify SOM’s design, and be the engineer and architect of record to the UAE authorities. NORR’s role was the supervision of all architectural components including on site supervision during construction and design of a 6-storey addition to the Office Annex Building for architectural documentation. NORR was also responsible for the architectural integration drawings for the Armani Hotel included in the Tower. Emaar Properties also engaged GHD, an international multidisciplinary consulting firm, to act as an independent verification and testing authority for concrete and steelwork.
The spiral minaret at the Great Mosque of Samarra
The design is derived from Islamic architecture. As the tower rises from the flat desert base, there are 27 setbacks in a spiralling pattern, decreasing the cross section of the tower as it reaches toward the sky and creating convenient outdoor terraces. These setbacks are arranged and aligned in a way that minimizes vibration wind loading from eddy currents and vortices. At the top, the central core emerges and is sculpted to form a finishing spire. At its tallest point, the tower sways a total of 1.5 m (4.9 ft).
As part of a study which reveals the unnecessary “vanity space” added to the top of the world’s tallest buildings by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), it was revealed that without its 244-metre spire, the 828-metre Burj Khalifa would drop to a substantially smaller 585-metre height without any reduction in usable space. As the report states, the spire “could be a skyscraper on its own”.
The spire of Burj Khalifa is composed of more than 4,000 tonnes (4,400 short tons; 3,900 long tons) of structural steel. The central pinnacle pipe weighs 350 tonnes (390 short tons; 340 long tons) and has a height of 200 m (660 ft). The spire also houses communications equipment.
In 2009, architects announced that more than 1,000 pieces of art would adorn the interiors of Burj Khalifa, while the residential lobby of Burj Khalifa would display the work of Jaume Plensa.
The cladding system consists of 142,000 m2 (1,528,000 sq ft) of more than 26,000 reflective glass panels and aluminium and textured stainless steel spandrel panels with vertical tubular fins. The architectural glass provides solar and thermal performance as well as an anti-glare shield for the intense desert sun, extreme desert temperatures and strong winds. In total the glass covers more than 174,000 m2 (1,870,000 sq ft).
The exterior temperature at the top of the building is thought to be 6 °C (11 °F) cooler than at its base.
A 304-room Armani Hotel, the first of four by Armani, occupies 15 of the lower 39 floors. The hotel was supposed to open on 18 March 2010, but after several delays, it finally opened to the public on 27 April 2010. The corporate suites and offices were also supposed to open from March onwards, yet the hotel and observation deck remained the only parts of the building which were open in April 2010.
The sky lobbies on the 43rd and 76th floors house swimming pools. Floors through to 108 have 900 private residential apartments (which, according to the developer, sold out within eight hours of being on the market). An outdoor zero-entry swimming pool is located on the 76th floor of the tower. Corporate offices and suites fill most of the remaining floors, except for a 122nd, 123rd and 124th floor where the At.mosphere restaurant, sky lobby and an indoor and outdoor observation deck is located respectively. In January 2010, it was planned that Burj Khalifa would receive its first residents from February 2010.
A total of 57 elevators and 8 escalators are installed. The elevators have a capacity of 12 to 14 people per cabin, the fastest rising and descending at up to 10 m/s (33 ft/s) for double-deck elevators. However, the world’s fastest single-deck elevator still belongs to Taipei 101 at 16.83 m/s (55.2 ft/s). Engineers had considered installing the world’s first triple-deck elevators, but the final design calls for double-deck elevators. The double-deck elevators are equipped with entertainment features such as LCD displays to serve visitors during their travel to the observation deck. The building has 2,909 stairs from the ground floor to the 160th floor.
The graphic design identity work for Burj Khalifa is the responsibility of Brash Brands, an independent international creative branding agency based in London. Design of the global launch events, communications, and visitors centres for Burj Khalifa have also been created by Brash Brands as well as the roadshow exhibition for the Armani Residences, which are part of the Armani Hotel within Burj Khalifa, which toured Milan, London, Jeddah, Moscow and Delhi.
The Burj Khalifa’s water system supplies an average of 946,000 L (250,000 U.S. gal) of water per day through 100 km (62 mi) of pipes. An additional 213 km (132 mi) of piping serves the fire emergency system, and 34 km (21 mi) supplies chilled water for the air conditioning system. The waste water system uses gravity to discharge water from plumbing fixtures, floor drains, mechanical equipment and storm water, to the city municipal sewer.
The air conditioning has been provided by Voltas. The air conditioning system draws air from the upper floors where the air is cooler and cleaner than on the ground. At peak cooling times, the tower’s cooling is equivalent to that provided by 13,000 short tons (26,000,000 lb) of melting ice in one day, or about 46 MW. Water is collected via a condensate collection system and is used to irrigate the nearby park.
To wash the 24,348 windows, totaling 120,000 m2 (1,290,000 sq ft) of glass, the building has three horizontal tracks which each hold a 1,500 kg (3,300 lb) bucket machine. Above level 109, and up to tier 27, traditional cradles from davits are used. The top of the building is cleaned by a crew who use ropes to descend from the top to gain access. Under normal conditions, when all building maintenance units are operational, it takes 36 workers three to four months to clean the entire exterior façade.
Unmanned machines will clean the top 27 additional tiers and the glass spire. The cleaning system was developed in Melbourne, Australia at a cost of A$8 million. The contract for building the state-of-the-art machines was won by Australian company CoxGomyl, a manufacturer of Building Maintenance Units.
The elevator operating chart of the Burj Khalifa
- H1-H4 (4 Hotel Passenger Elevators): G, 1, 3, 5-16, 38, 39
- HS1, HS2 (2 Hotel Service Elevators): C, G, 1-39
- HS3, HS4 (2 Hotel Service Elevators): B1, C, G, 1-3
- HS5 (1 Hotel Service Elevator): C, G, 1-3
- HR1 (1 Hotel Restaurant Passenger Elevator): C, G, 1
- HF3 (1 Hotel Spa Elevator): C, G, 1, 1M, 2, 3
- HB1, HB2 (2 Ballroom Elevators): C, G, 1
- HP1-HP4 (4 Hotel Parking Elevators): B2, B1, C, G, 1, 3
- HA1-HA3 (3 Serviced Apartment Passenger Elevators): G, 1, 3, 9-16, 18-39
- R1-R3 (3 Residential Sky Lobby Shuttle Elevators): G, 43
- R4-R6 (3 Residential Sky Lobby Shuttle Elevators): G, 76
- R7-R9 (3 Residential Passenger Elevators): 43-72
- R10-R12 (3 Residential Passenger Elevators): 76-108
- RP1, RP2 (2 Residential Parking Elevators): B2, B1, C, G, 1
- OB1, OB2 (2 Corporate Suite & Observatory Shuttle Elevators, Double Deck): C/G, 123/124
- BO1-BO3 (3 Corporate Suite Passenger Elevators): 112-123
- BO4-BO6 (3 Corporate Suite Passenger Elevators): 123-135, 139-154
- OP1, OP2 (2 Corporate Suite Parking Elevators): B2, B1, G, 1
- BS1/F (1 Firemen & Service Elevator): C, G, 1-40, 42-73, 75-136, 138
- BS2/F (1 Service Elevator): C, G, 1-40, 42-73, 75-109, 111
- BS3/F (1 Service Elevator): 138-160
The Dubai Fountain
The Dubai Fountain
Outside, WET Enterprises designed a fountain system at a cost of Dh 800 million (US$217 million). Illuminated by 6,600 lights and 50 coloured projectors, it is 270 m (900 ft) long and shoots water 150 m (500 ft) into the air, accompanied by a range of classical to contemporary Arabic and world music. It is the world’s second largest choreographed fountain., On 26 October 2008, Emaar announced that based on results of a naming contest the fountain would be called the Dubai Fountain.
View of The Dubai Fountain from the observation deck
View from the observation deck
An outdoor observation deck, named At the Top, opened on 5 January 2010 on the 124th floor. At 452 m (1,483 ft), it was the highest outdoor observation deck in the world when it opened. Although it was surpassed in December 2011 by Cloud Top 488 on the Canton Tower, Guangzhou at 488 m (1,601 ft), Burj Khalifa opened the 148th floor SKY level at 555 m (1,821 ft), once again giving it the highest observation deck in the world on 15 October 2014. This was until the Shanghai Tower opened in June 2016 with an observation deck at a height of 561 metres. The 124th floor observation deck also features the electronic telescope, an augmented reality device developed by Gsmprjct° of Montréal, which allows visitors to view the surrounding landscape in real-time, and to view previously saved images such as those taken at different times of day or under different weather conditions. To manage the daily rush of sightseers, visitors are able to purchase tickets in advance for a specific date and time and at a 75% discount on tickets purchased on the spot.
On 8 February 2010, the observation deck was closed to the public after power-supply problems caused an elevator to become stuck between floors, trapping a group of tourists for 45 minutes. Despite rumours of the observation deck reopening for St. Valentine’s Day (14 February), it remained closed until 4 April 2010. During low tides and clearness, people can see the shores of Iran from the top of the skyscraper.
Burj Khalifa Park
Burj Khalifa is surrounded by an 11 ha (27-acre) park designed by landscape architects SWA Group. Like the tower, the park’s design was based on the flower of the Hymenocallis, a desert plant. At the centre of the park is the water room, which is a series of pools and water jet fountains. Benches and signs incorporate images of Burj Khalifa and the Hymenocallis flower.
The plants are watered by water collected from the building’s cooling system. The system provides 68,000,000 L (15,000,000 imp gal) annually. WET Enterprises, who also developed the Dubai Fountain, developed the park’s six water features.
The following is a breakdown of floors.
Animation of construction process
Aerial closeup of Burj Khalifa under construction in March 2008
The tower was constructed by Samsung C&T from South Korea, who also did work on the Petronas Twin Towers and Taipei 101. Samsung C&T built the tower in a joint venture with Besix from Belgium and Arabtec from UAE. Turner is the Project Manager on the main construction contract.
Under UAE law, the Contractor and the Engineer of Record, Hyder Consulting (manual structural analysis professionals which used Flash Analysis authored by Allen Wright), is jointly and severally liable for the performance of Burj Khalifa.
The primary structure is reinforced concrete. Putzmeister created a new, super high-pressure trailer concrete pump, the BSA 14000 SHP-D, for this project. Burj Khalifa’s construction used 330,000 m3 (431,600 cu yd) of concrete and 55,000 tonnes (61,000 short tons; 54,000 long tons) of steel rebar, and construction took 22 million man-hours. In May 2008 Putzmeister pumped concrete with more than 21 MPA ultimate compressive strength of gravel that would surpass the 600 meters weight of the effective area of each column from the foundation to the next fourth level, and the rest is by metal columns jacketed or covered with concreted to a then world record delivery height of 606 m (1,988 ft), the 156th floor. Three tower cranes were used during construction of the uppermost levels, each capable of lifting a 25-tonne load. The remaining structure above is constructed of lighter steel.
In 2003, 33 test holes were drilled to study the strength of the bedrock underlying the structure. “Weak to very weak sandstone and siltstone” was found, just metres below the surface. Samples were taken from test holes drilled to a depth of 140 metres, finding weak to very weak rock all the way. The study described the site as part of a “seismically active area”.
Over 45,000 m3 (58,900 cu yd) of concrete, weighing more than 110,000 tonnes (120,000 short tons; 110,000 long tons) were used to construct the concrete and steel foundation, which features 192 piles; each pile is 1.5 metre diameter x 43 m long, buried more than 50 m (164 ft) deep. The foundation is designed to support the total building weight of approximately 450,000 tonnes (500,000 short tons; 440,000 long tons). This weight is then divided by the compressive strength of concrete of which is 30 MPa which yield a 450 sq.meters of vertical normal effective area which then yield to a 12 meters by 12 meters dimensions. A cathodic protection system is in place under the concrete to neutralize the groundwater and prevent corrosion.
The Burj Khalifa is highly compartmentalised. Pressurized, air-conditioned refuge floors are located approximately every 35 floors where people can shelter on their long walk down to safety in case of an emergency or fire.
Special mixes of concrete are made to withstand the extreme pressures of the massive building weight; as is typical with reinforced concrete construction, each batch of concrete used was tested to ensure it could withstand certain pressures. CTLGroup, working for SOM, conducted the creep and shrinkage testing critical for the structural analysis of the building.
The consistency of the concrete used in the project was essential. It was difficult to create a concrete that could withstand both the thousands of tonnes bearing down on it and Persian Gulf temperatures that can reach 50 °C (122 °F). To combat this problem, the concrete was not poured during the day. Instead, during the summer months, ice was added to the mixture and it was poured at night when the air is cooler and the humidity is higher. A cooler concrete mixture cures evenly throughout and is therefore less likely to set too quickly and crack. Any significant cracks could have put the entire project in jeopardy.
The unique design and engineering challenges of building Burj Khalifa have been featured in a number of television documentaries, including the Big, Bigger, Biggest series on the National Geographic and Five channels, and the Mega Builders series on the Discovery Channel.
Burj Khalifa and skyline of Dubai, 2010
- January 2004: Excavation commences.
- February 2004: Piling starts.
- 21 September 2004: Emaar contractors begin construction.
- March 2005: Structure of Burj Khalifa starts rising.
- June 2006: Level 50 is reached.
- February 2007: Surpasses the Sears Tower as the building with the most floors.
- 13 May 2007: Sets record for vertical concrete pumping on any building at 452 m (1,483 ft), surpassing the 449.2 m (1,474 ft) to which concrete was pumped during the construction of Taipei 101, while Burj Khalifa reached the 130th floor.
- 21 July 2007: Surpasses Taipei 101, whose height of 509.2 m (1,671 ft) made it the world’s tallest building, and level 141 reached.
- 12 August 2007: Surpasses the Sears Tower antenna, which stands 527 m (1,729 ft).
- 12 September 2007: At 555.3 m (1,822 ft), becomes the world’s tallest freestanding structure, surpassing the CN Tower in Toronto, and level 150 reached.
- 7 April 2008: At 629 m (2,064 ft), surpasses the KVLY-TV Mast to become the tallest man-made structure, level 160 reached.
- 17 June 2008: Emaar announces that Burj Khalifa’s height is over 636 m (2,087 ft) and that its final height will not be given until it is completed in September 2009.
- 1 September 2008: Height tops 688 m (2,257 ft), making it the tallest man-made structure ever built, surpassing the previous record-holder, the Warsaw Radio Mast in Konstantynów, Poland.
- 17 January 2009: Topped out at 829.8 m (2,722 ft).
- 1 October 2009: Emaar announces that the exterior of the building is completed.
- 4 January 2010: Burj Khalifa’s official launch ceremony is held and Burj Khalifa is opened. Burj Dubai renamed Burj Khalifa in honour of the President of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan.
- 10 March 2010 Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) certifies Burj Khalifa as world’s tallest building.
Real Estate Values
In March 2009, Mohamed Ali Alabbar, chairman of the project’s developer, Emaar Properties, said office space pricing at Burj Khalifa reached US$4,000 per sq ft (over US$43,000 per m²) and the Armani Residences, also in Burj Khalifa, sold for US$3,500 per sq ft (over US$37,500 per m²). He estimated the total cost for the project to be about US$1.5 billion.
The project’s completion coincided with the global financial crisis of 2007–2012, and with vast overbuilding in the country; this led to high vacancies and foreclosures. With Dubai mired in debt from its huge ambitions, the government was forced to seek multibillion dollar bailouts from its oil-rich neighbor Abu Dhabi. Subsequently, in a surprise move at its opening ceremony, the tower was renamed Burj Khalifa, said to honour the UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his crucial support.
Because of the slumping demand in Dubai’s property market, the rents in the Burj Khalifa plummeted 40% some ten months after its opening. Out of 900 apartments in the tower, 825 were still empty at that time. However, over the next two and a half years, overseas investors steadily began to purchase the available apartments and office space in Burj Khalifa. By October 2012, Emaar reported that around 80% of the apartments were occupied.
Official Launch Ceremony
The ceremony was broadcast live on a giant screen on Burj Park Island and on smaller screens elsewhere. Hundreds of media outlets from around the world reported live from the scene. In addition to the media presence, 6,000 guests were expected.
The opening ceremony of Burj Khalifa
The opening of Burj Khalifa was held on 4 January 2010. The ceremony featured a display of 10,000 fireworks, light beams projected on and around the tower, and further sound, light and water effects. The celebratory lighting was designed by UK lighting designers Speirs and Major Associates. Using the 868 powerful stroboscope lights that are integrated into the façade and spire of the tower, different lighting sequences were choreographed, together with more than 50 different combinations of other effects.
A short film about Burj Khalifa and Dubai in general was followed by a fireworks and light show. The first part of the show was based on a desert flower theme and included fireworks, lights, and sounds. The second segment told the story of the tower’s construction using 300 projectors to generate an image of the tower. The final segment used fireworks and lights to illuminate the tower.
In June 2010, Burj Khalifa was the recipient of the 2010 “Best Tall Building Middle East & Africa” award by the CTBUH. On 28 September 2010 Burj Khalifa won the award for best project of the year at the Middle East Architect Awards 2010. CTBUH Awards Chair Gordon Gill, of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture said:
We are talking about a building here that has changed the landscape of what is possible in architecture a building that became internationally recognized as an icon long before it was even completed. ‘Building of the Century’ was thought a more appropriate title for it.
Besides these awards, Burj Khalifa was the recipient of following awards.
The building has been used by several experienced BASE jumpers for both authorised and unauthorised BASE jumping:
- In May 2008, Hervé Le Gallou and David McDonnell, dressed as engineers, illegally infiltrated Burj Khalifa (around 650 m at the time), and jumped off a balcony situated a couple of floors below the 160th floor.
- On 8 January 2010, with permission of the authorities, Nasr Al Niyadi and Omar Al Hegelan, from the Emirates Aviation Society, broke the world record for the highest BASE jump from a building after they leapt from a crane-suspended platform attached to the 160th floor at 672 m (2,205 ft). The two men descended the vertical drop at a speed of up to 220 km/h (140 mph), with enough time to open their parachutes 10 seconds into the 90-second jump.
- On 21 April 2014, with permission of the authorities and support from several sponsors, highly experienced French BASE jumpers Vince Reffet and Fred Fugen broke the Guinness world record for the highest BASE jump from a building after they leapt from a specially designed platform, built at the very top of the pinnacle, at 828 metres (2,717 feet).
On 28 March 2011, Alain “Spiderman” Robert scaled the outside of Burj Khalifa. The climb to the top of the spire took six hours. To comply with UAE safety laws, Robert, who usually climbs in free solo style, used a rope and harness for the climb.
Within 17 months of the building’s official opening, a man described as “an Asian in his mid-30s” who worked at one of the companies in the tower, died by suicide on 10 May 2011 by jumping from the 147th floor. He fell 39 floors, landing on a deck on the 108th floor. Dubai police confirmed the act as a suicide, reporting that “[they] also came to know that the man decided to commit suicide as his company refused to grant leave.”
The Daily Mail reported that on 16 November 2014, Laura Vanessa Nunes, a Portuguese national who was in Dubai on a tourist visa, fell to her death from Burj Khalifa’s “At the Top” observation deck on the 148th floor. However, on 18 May 2015, Dubai police disputed the report made by the Daily Mail on this incident and said that this incident took place in Jumeirah Lakes Towers. Coroner’s report states Laura’s body was found on the third floor of the Burj Khalifa
Ramadan Observance on the Higher Floors
At the higher floors of the Burj, people can still see the sun for a couple of minutes after it has set on the ground. This has led Dubai clerics to rule that those living above the 80th floor should wait 2 additional minutes to break their Ramadan fast, and those living above the 150th floor, 3 minutes.
In Popular Culture
- Some scenes of the 2011 American action film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol were shot on and in the Burj Khalifa, where Tom Cruise, portraying the character of Ethan Hunt, performed many of the stunts himself.
- An alternate version of the Burj Khalifa appears in the 2012 video game Spec Ops: The Line.
- A building that resembles the Burj Khalifa was featured in an episode of the American animated comedy series The Simpsons entitled “YOLO”, which aired on 10 November 2013. The building is known to be the tallest building in Springfield, a fictional American town which is the show’s setting.
- In the 2016 American science fiction film Independence Day: Resurgence, the Burj Khalifa was seen where it – along with many other structures – is being thrown into
- London by the aliens using their mothership’s anti-gravity pull.
- Various other Western, Indian and Pakistani movies/ shows have been filmed, including the Amazing Race.
- This building can also be seen in one of the Dubai tracks in the Wii version of Need for Speed: Nitro.
- In the 2017 American disaster film Geostorm, the building is hit by a massive tsunami, which causes the antenna to fall off and the building itself to tilt at a precarious angle.
- 2010–2011: Fireworks accompanied by lasers and lights were displayed from the Burj Khalifa, making it the highest New Year’s Eve fireworks display in the world. The theme of the 2011 New Year fireworks was the “New Year Gala”, a tribute to the spirit of Dubai, which is home to over 200 nationalities. The display also marked the first anniversary of Burj Khalifa.
- 2012–2013: The fireworks display on the Burj Khalifa – in a blaze of light and colour – engulfed the tower, synchronised and choreographed to a live performance by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. A window table for the New Year event was also arranged on the 122nd floor of the building at Atmosphere restaurant, at cost of Dh16,000 (US$4,300) per person.
- On 27 November 2013, the Burj Khalifa was illuminated with lights and a fireworks display following announcement of Dubai as the winning city to host the World Expo 2020.
- 2013–2014: The Burj Khalifa and surrounding areas were the site of a record-breaking fireworks display as part of the UAE’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, with a reported 400,000 fireworks being set off continuously for six minutes.
- 2014–2015: The Burj Khalifa was illuminated by a 828 m (2,717 ft) custom build LED facade which was installed on the building where light shows were displayed followed by the fireworks.
The Burj Khalifa was built primarily by workers from South Asia and East Asia. This is generally because the current generation of UAE locals prefer governmental jobs and do not have an attitude favouring private sector employment. On 17 June 2008, there were 7,500 skilled workers employed at the construction site. Press reports indicated in 2006 that skilled carpenters at the site earned £4.34 a day, and labourers earned £2.84. According to a BBC investigation and a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, the workers were housed in abysmal conditions, and worked long hours for low pay. During the construction of Burj Khalifa, only one construction-related death was reported. However, workplace injuries and fatalities in the UAE are “poorly documented”, according to HRW.
On 21 March 2006, about 2,500 workers, who were upset over buses that were delayed for the end of their shifts, protested and triggered a riot, damaging cars, offices, computers and construction equipment. A Dubai Interior Ministry official said the rioters caused almost £500,000 in damage. Most of the workers involved in the riot returned the following day but refused to work.
Tallest buildings in the world (350 m+)