Little Bits of History

Really Tall

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 4, 2014
Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

January 4, 2010: The world’s tallest building officially opens. The mammoth building rises 2,722 feet into the air over Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Known as Burj Dubai during construction, today it is called Burj Khalifa which translates into the Khalifa tower. Construction began in September 2004 and the exterior was completed on October 1, 2009. It is part of a 490 acre area called Downtown Dubai. Architecture and engineering were provided by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill of Chicago. Adrian Smith was chief architect and Bill Baker was chief structural engineer. Samsung C&T of South Korea were the primary contractors.

The Middle East has been the home of the world’s tallest manmade structure for millennia with the Pyramid of Giza taking the title long ago. It held on to that designation until 1311 when it was overtaken by the Lincoln Cathedral in England. Many of today’s tallest structures are towers or guyed masts. Skyscrapers became possible with the invention of the elevator which allowed people transport from the ground to ever more increasing heights. The tallest 300 buildings in the world are all younger than early 20th century. The first to make the list was completed in 1913 and is the Woolworth Building in New York City, which is home to the oldest eight super buildings. Since Burj Khalifa opened, there have been many more skyscrapers built – 127 between 2010 and 2013 – with three more due to open later this year. None of them will be as tall as Khalifa.

To support the massive weight of such a building, as well as stand the forces of the elements, a new type of construction was developed. Using a buttressed core, a hexagonal center was reinforced by three buttresses giving it a Y shape. Because of this architectural style, the building supports itself laterally. This is good news since it is made of more than 4,000 tonnes of structural steel. The central pinnacle pipe weighs 350 tonnes and was constructed on the inside. The exterior surface cladding is made of over 1.5 million square feet of reflective glazing. The building can accommodate over 35,000 people at one time and there are 57 elevators and 8 escalators installed.

About 250,000 gallons of water runs through 62 miles of pipe each day inside the building. Another 132 miles of piping is needed for fire and emergency systems. Another 21 miles of pipes supply chilled water for the air conditioning system. During peak usage, the air conditioning system uses the converted energy equivalent to 29 million pounds of melting ice. There are 24,348 windows in the building consisting of nearly 1.3 million square feet of glass. A special track system is installed at three levels for the purpose of cleaning these numerous windows. It takes 36 workers three to four months to clean the entire exterior of the building.

From the earth to the sky. – picture at the top of Burj Khalifa

The skyscraper establishes the block, the block creates the street, the street offers itself to man. – Roland Barthes

A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous. – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

High buildings have no genuine advantages, except in speculative gains for banks and land owners. They are not cheaper, they do not help create open space, they destroy the townscape, they destroy social life, they promote crime, they make life difficult for children, they are expensive to maintain, they wreck the open spaces near them, and they damage light and air and view. – Christopher Alexander

Also on this day: Cornelius Vanderbilt – In 1877, the business magnate died.
Not the British Empire Yet – In 871, the Battle of Reading was fought.
Top Ten – In 1936, Billboard magazine published its first hit parade.
Ice Storm – In 1998, an ice storm hit southeastern Canada.


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