The Burj Dubai lights up the city

AFP/Getty Images

The New Tallest Building in the World

Perhaps it's surprising that the new tallest structure in the world would take its inspiration from a diminutive flower. Designers were motivated by the Hymenocallis genus's spidery, layered form. The Burj Khalifa makes use of a "buttressed core" and has a modular, Y-shaped structure, somewhat reminiscent of the flower's sculpted shape. Reinforced concrete walls surround a hexagonal concrete core. The tower is designed to withstand high winds and seismic events.

Inside the Burj Khalifa, the world's fastest elevators will whisk guests to an observation deck at 40 miles per hour. Other lifts will deposit residents at the 800 apartments between the 17th and 108th floors. The higher floors will house offices, while a club will span three levels in the 140s. Giorgio Armani even plans to open a hotel and designer-furnished residential suites in the building.

The Burj Dubai's innovative design is matched by its state-of-the-art systems. The US$20 billion site, including the tower and its surrounding buildings, will require 145,000 tons of refrigeration. Low temperature chillers that run on a special glycol solution will keep even the uppermost floors of the Burj cool. In case of system failure, an ice storage system will provide an alternative source of air-conditioning.

To prevent condensation buildup, a collection system will trap moisture formed inside of the air-conditioned tower, drain it to a holding tank and pump the salvaged water into an irrigation system. Ultimately, the system should collect 15 million gallons of water per year. Three track-mounted building maintenance machines will perform the work of a fleet of window-washers.

Construction on the tallest building in the world has progressed rapidly. It took only 1,276 days of work for the Burj Dubai to surpass Taipei 101. More than 30 contracting companies are working on the tower and the larger Burj Dubai development with a peak of 5,000 workers on-site at one time. However, construction has been interrupted as laborers protest low pay and poor working conditions. Dubai's contractors are often accused of treating their migrant workforce unfairly. In 2006, 2,500 laborers walked out of the Burj site and rioted for increased pay. Skilled carpenters make only about US$7.60 per day, while laborers earn $4 [BBC].

To learn more about the Burj Dubai, Dubai and other related topics, look at the links on the next page.