Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
 

Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Featured August 2014
Burj Khalifa was recognized as the "Best Tall Building Middle East & Africa" and with the "Global Icon" Award in the 2010 CTBUH Awards Program.
Other Featured Tall Buildings

“This project has redefined a region and a people, created a sense of place for Dubai, advanced the technologies of supertall buildings and established a new benchmark for the integrated practice of architecture and engineering.”
- Gordon Gill, Awards Chair, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

Location
Dubai
Completion
2010
Height
828m (2,717ft)
Stories
163
Primary Uses
Office/ Residential/ Hotel

Owner/Developer
Emaar Properties PJSC

Design Architect
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Associate Architect
Hyder Consulting

Structural Engineer
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
MEP
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Main Contractor
Samsung; Besix Group; Arabtec

Undoubtedly one of the wonders of the modern world, Burj Khalifa is graceful and elegant as it reaches upward with seeming ease. The building’s iconic status reflects the aspirations of Dubai to establish itself among the world’s great cities. Through its ambition, style, and record-breaking height, it has instantly become one of the most recognizable buildings of our time.

The execution of this project was unprecedented in scale. Burj Khalifa utilized the latest technological advances in design, construction, and materials. It pushed the limits on the entire design and construction processes of high-rise buildings to a new level, emerging as a catalyst for a new surge of tall building systems and concepts all around the world. Carefully crafted around the wind forces, the Y-shaped plan and attenuated, stepped massing that bring the building to its pinnacle are at once beautiful and efficient.

Figure 1. GeoEye Satellite image Figure 2. Project site plan

Burj Khalifa has redefined what is possible in the design and engineering of supertall buildings. By combining cutting-edge technologies and cultural influences, the building serves as a global icon that is both a model for future urban centers and speaks to the global movement towards compact, livable urban areas. The Tower and its surrounding neighborhood are more centralized than any other new development in Dubai. At the center of a new downtown neighborhood, Burj Khalifa’s mixed-use program focuses the area’s development density and provides direct connections to mass transit systems.

Burj Khalifa’s architecture has embodied references to Islamic architecture and yet reflects the modern global community it is designed to serve. The building’s Y-shaped plan provides the maximum amount of perimeter for windows in living spaces without developing internal unusable area. As the tapering tower rises, setbacks occur at the ends of each “wing” in an upward spiraling pattern that decreases the mass of the tower as the height increases. These setbacks were modeled in the wind tunnel to minimize wind forces. The design of the Tower was significantly
influenced by its performance with respect to the wind, in both its shaping and orientation. The building went through many wind tunnel tests and design iterations to develop optimum performance.

The exterior cladding, comprised of aluminum and textured stainless steel spandrel panels, was designed to withstand Dubai’s extreme temperatures during the summer months by using a low-E glass to provide enhanced thermal insulation. Vertical polished stainless steel fins were added to accentuate Burj Khalifa’s height and slenderness.

Figure 3. Exterior cladding detail Figure 4. Exterior Entry at dusk
The unprecedented height of the Burj Khalifa required it to be an innovative building in many ways. Design techniques, building systems, and construction practices all required rethinking, and in many cases new applications, to create a practical and efficient building.   

The structural system, termed a “buttressed core,” is designed to efficiently support a supertall building utilizing a strong central core, buttressed by its three wings.  The vertical structure is tied together at the mechanical floors through outrigger walls in order to maximize the building’s stiffness. The result is an efficient system where all of the building’s vertical structure is used to support both gravity and lateral loads.

The Tower incorporates numerous enhancements to the fire and life safety systems, including “lifeboat” operation for elevators which allows for them to be used for controlled evacuation under certain situations, decreasing total evacuation time by 45% over stairs alone.

Due to its height, the building is able to utilize ventilation where cooler air temperatures, reduced air density, and reduced relative humidity at the top of the building allow for “sky-sourced” fresh air. When air is drawn in at the top of the building, it requires less energy for air conditioning, ventilation, and dehumidification.  The building’s height also generates a substantial stack effect due to the thermal differences between the buildings’ interior and exterior, but Burj Khalifa was designed to passively control these forces, reducing the need for mechanical means of pressurization.
Figure 5. Peak down (spire) view

Burj Khalifa has one of the largest condensate recovery systems in the world. Collecting water from air conditioning condensate discharge prevents it from entering the wastewater stream and reduces the need for municipal potable water.

The tower’s management systems utilize smart lighting and mechanical controls which lower operational costs, allow for a more efficient use of building resources and services and better control of internal comfort conditions. Individual electric energy monitoring systems enable energy optimization of the tower’s systems over its lifetime.

With over 185,800 sq m (2,000,000 sq ft) of interior space designed for Burj Khalifa, planning of the building’s interior space began at the earliest stages of its design focusing on three main goals—to recognize and acknowledge the building’s height, to integrate its structural and architectural rationale, and to appreciate the locale’s heritage, history and culture. The interiors of the uppermost floors were designed to reflect celestial influences. This is in contrast to the lower floors, which are inspired by natural elements.


Figure 6. "World Voices" sculpture in the residential lobby
An art program for the Tower was developed in which over 500 individual pieces of art were placed and specified throughout the Tower. The premier featured art piece resides in the tower’s residential lobby. This sculpture, completed by the internationally renowned artist Jaume Plensa, is entitled “World Voices” and is composed of 196 cymbals supported by stainless steel rods rising from two pools similar to reeds in a lake. The cymbals represent the 196 countries of the world and reflect that the Burj Khalifa was a result of a collaboration of many people from around the world.

Figure 7. Skyline view of Dubai at dusk

Related Links
CTBUH Skyscraper Center Profile:
Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa was recognized as the Global Icon and Best Tall Building Middle East & Africa in the 2010 CTBUH Awards Program.
Download Burj Khalifa 2010 CTBUH Awards Book section

2010 CTBUH Awards Book

The CTBUH would like to thank Skidmore, Owings and Merrill for their assistance with this article.
Photography © SOM-Nick Merrick Hedrich Blessing; Imre Solt; GeoEye Satellite