On January 4, 2010, amidst a splendid fireworks display, the Burj Dubai – the tallest building in the world – was officially opened by Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The Burj Dubai, was later renamed Burj Khalifa. The Burj Khalifa is about 2,722 feet (829.8 meters) tall. With its inauguration, the Burj Khalifa ousted the Taipei 101, a 1,671 feet (509.2 meter) tower as the tallest building in the world – a record held by Taipei 101 since 2004. The building is now part of the 490-acre Downtown Dubai area and is located at the ‘First Interchange’ on Sheikh Zayed Road. The inaugural ceremony held 1,325 days after work started was attended by over 6,000 guests. While Sheikh Mohammed called the tower “the tallest building ever created by the hand of man” the exact height of the building which was a secret til then, was revealed.
Construction of the Burj Khalifa started in September 2004 – during a period of economic boom for Dubai and the exteriors were completed in October 2009. Construction of this architectural marvel was overseen by chief architect Adrian Smith and chief structural engineer Bill Baker of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill from Chicago. Samsung C&T of South Korea were the primary contractors involved in the construction. Other contractors were Arabtec and Besix. Emaar Properties of Dubai was the developer behind Burj Khalifa. The façade consultants, ALT Cladding, wind consultants RWDI, Otis Elevator Company, and Dow Corning Corporation were significant contributors to the construction.
Known as the Burj Dubai during its construction phase, it came to be known as the Burj Khalifa in an acknowledgement of the contribution of the leader of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan. Dubai’s neighboring emirate, the oil-rich Abu Dhabi had bailed out an indebted Dubai and provided a help of about $10 billion.
Apart from being the tallest building and the tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa holds a number of other records. With 163 stories, it is now the building with most floors in the world. It also houses the highest elevator installation. The Burj Khalifa’s elevators travel a distance of 1,654 feet (504 meters). The Burj Khalifa houses the world’s second highest outdoor observation deck on the 124th floor at a height of about 1,483 feet. When it was initially inaugurated, this observation deck was the highest in the World, but currently the Cloud Top 488 on Canton Tower in China holds this position. The highest installation of an aluminum and glass façade at a height of 1,680 feet on the Bhurj Khalifa makes it unique. It also houses the highest nightclub around the globe on the 144th floor and the world’s highest restaurant called At.mosphere on the 122nd floor at a height of 1,450 feet. The Burj Khalifa is surrounded by a 27-acre luxury park. This park has been designed to match the central theme of the structure and draws inspiration from the blooming desert flower – Hymenocallis. Designed by the SWA Group, the park has six water features, a number of flower gardens, palm trees and walkways.
The spire of the Burj Khalifa can be seen from a distance of about 95 kilometers. As many as 57 lifts service the 49 floors of office space and the 1,044 residential apartments. The fountains on the property at the foot of the tower, shoot up to a length of 900 feet making them the world’s tallest performing fountains. This architectural wonder was built with 28,261 glass cladding panels making up the exterior of the tower. The building design draws inspiration from traditional Islamic architecture with the base representing flower petals opening up to the sun.
The construction of the Burj Khalifa posed a number of unprecedented challenges. The engineers were initially unsure how tall the building would be. Dubai also is susceptible to very fast winds and to earthquakes. During construction, the building was hit by lightning twice and by an earthquake once. Within a month of its opening the building had to be shut down to public viewing due to a spate of electrical problems. Real estate prices in Dubai, a once high-flying emirate, came crashing down during the inauguration of the building. With time, however, a number of the challenges have been overcome. The Burj Khalifa has ever since been the setting for a number of film shootings and screenings as well.
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