Monday, February 8, 2010

A Tall (Building) Story


It started in ancient Egypt with the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza which for many centuries was the tallest structure in the world at approximately 150 meters. This was eventually overtaken by the Eiffel Tower in Paris at approximately 300 meters. It is, however, debatable whether these two structures are buildings.

The Empire State Building in New York set the benchmark for design and construction of tall buildings. This building was to change the New York skyline and its famous viewing deck was featured in a number of popular movies such as “An affair to remember” and ‘Sleepless in Seattle’. The latter half of the previous century witnessed the design and construction of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Taipei 101 (Taiwan), the World Trade Centre (New York) and the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears building) in Chicago, all ranging from 400 to 600 meters in height. Tall radio and television towers particularly those in Warsaw (Poland) and Toronto (Canada) subsequently topped the 600 meter mark.

When opened on 4 January 2010 the 828 meter and 160 storeys, Burj Dubai (now renamed Burj Khalifa) officially became the tallest building in the world. The building was designed by Architect Adrian Smith, a former partner in the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The conically shaped building can be seen at a distance of 95 km. Construction of the building commenced during 2004. A total of 2 300m³ concrete and 31 400 ton of reinforcing steel was used in construction. The aluminium and glass fa├žade totals 24 348 panels on a 132 190m² wall area including 103 000m² double glazed windows sufficient to cover 14 football pitches. Some 15 500m² of stainless steel was used.

The building is serviced by 54 lifts moving at a speed of 10 meters per second. The airconditioning plants can produce 12 750 ton of ice a day. The developers are Emaar Properties, which is 30 percent owned by the Dubai Government. Emaar is the largest property developer in the Middle East and Africa. Due to the recent deadline of the Dubai Property market, the ruler of neighbouring Abu Dhabi came to the rescue – hence the change of name of the building from Burj Dubai to Burj Khalifa. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed A1 Nahyan has ruled Abu Dhabi since 2004 and is also President of the United Arab Emirates. The Sheikh is highly regarded.

Burj Khalifa is a mixed use building housing retail outlets, 1044 residential apartments, 37 floors of office space and a 160 room luxury Armani Hotel.

It will also boast the worlds highest mosque and swimming pools on the 158 and 76 floors respectively. When operational it is expected that 12 000 people will live or work in the building complex. The Burj Khalifa is surrounded by a man-made lake, where the world’s tallest fountains, at night, gush to the sound of Opera, Arabian and Indian music.

To provide some perspective, the Carlton Centre in downtown Johannesburg is the tallest building in Africa but does not even feature in the 100 tallest buildings in the world as it only reaches 222.51 meters in height above ground level.

Pieter Rautenbach
Projects Facilitator
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