Burj Dubai, the first superscraper
The worldâ€™s tallest building opens for business this week â€” if it can find any
By John Arlidge
For years, Dubai boasted that whatever bling project it embarked upon, from carving its coastline into palm-tree-shaped resorts to building vast ski domes in the sand, it would be the â€œnumber one in the worldâ€. After the credit crunch, however, it looked like the only record the Gulf city state would claim is the biggest boom and bust.
Tomorrow, though, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al- Maktoum, the emirateâ€™s ruler, will celebrate at least one global milestone he can be proud of when he opens the tallest building on the planet.
The Â£1 billion Burj Dubai is at least 2,683ft from its base to the tip of its spire â€” thatâ€™s more than half a mile, the equivalent of three-and-a-half Canary Wharf towers or two Empire State buildings stacked up. Its final height is being kept secret until tomorrow, but architects who have worked on the building have hinted it could break the 2,700ft mark.
The tower is more than 1,000ft higher than its nearest inhabited rival, Taiwanâ€™s 1,671ft Taipei 101. It is also the tallest man-made structure in the world, surpassing the 2,063ft KVLY-TV mast in North Dakota, America.
The steel-ribbed, glass-clad structure looks like a giant hypodermic needle piercing the desert sky. As the 169-floor building rises, it passes through several climatic zones. The temperature at the top is up to 10C cooler than at the bottom.
It has the highest swimming pool in the world, on the 76th floor, and the most elevated place of worship with plans for a mosque on the 158th floor.
The Burj Dubai â€” â€œburjâ€ means tower in Arabic â€” is the culmination of Sheikh Mohammedâ€™s vaulting ambition for the emirate. It is the first time the Arab world has claimed the title of the worldâ€™s tallest building since 1311, when Lincoln Cathedral exceeded the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
However, after the economic downturn ripped through Dubai â€” sending property prices plunging 50% and forcing Sheikh Mohammed to go cap in hand to his wealthy neighbour, Abu Dhabi, for a $25 billion (Â£15 billion) bailout â€” critics are already dismissing the tower as a gaudy memorial to a lost decade of uncontrolled speculation. â€œItâ€™s the last blast of the Noughties in a city that got too big for its dishdasha [robes],â€ said one local banker.
The Burj is so tall that architects are calling it not just a skyscraper but a â€œsuperscraperâ€. It is mostly residential. There are 900 studios and one- to four-bedroom flats and 144 apartments, designed by Giorgio Armani. The tower also houses the Italian designerâ€™s first hotel, which means fashionistas can live in a branded home and go on holiday in chic surroundings without leaving the building.
Emaar, the developer, has made Â£700m selling apartments in the Burj since building work started in 2004, but investors are nursing losses totalling hundreds of millions of pounds after the property crash. Many may be forced to sell their new homes at below purchase price. There is also 300,000 sq ft of office space in the tower. None is occupied yet and observers question how many tenants will move in.
However full the building turns out to be, it is an undoubted engineering triumph. Summer temperatures of up to 50C, desert dust storms and the towerâ€™s extreme height forced builders to go to extraordinary lengths to complete the job. Surveyors had to take their measurements just before dawn when the building was â€œat restâ€ â€” not expanding in the heat of day or contracting in the cool hours of night.
Human rights groups and workersâ€™ organisations say the tower has been built using â€œslave labourâ€. Construction workers, mainly from India and Pakistan, toiled round the clock for as little as $5 a day.
Environmentalists have criticised the buildingâ€™s power consumption. Its air-conditioning system is the equivalent of melting 12,500 tons of ice a day, and it will consume millions of gallons of desalinated water â€” in a city that already has the worldâ€™s highest per capita carbon footprint.
The Chicago-based architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, deny the claim. â€œTall buildings are inherently energy- efficient because they are high-density,â€ said Bill Baker, chief structural engineer. He described the Burj as an affirmation of the power and importance of tall buildings following the 9/11 attacks that brought down the World Trade Center in New York. â€œItâ€™s a symbol of optimism. It says, â€˜We believe in the futureâ€™.â€
Very unfortunate timing for the opening; in 2006 the empty offices (with tenants) may have been worth $900m you would wonder what they would fetch now?
If the expression too big to fail were ever apropriate it is probably this, whilst the owners may take a bath a little like the channel tunnel it is isn't going anywhere.
- PVC King
Dubai to open world's tallest building
Monday, 4 January 2010 12:05
Dubai's ruler will open the world's tallest building today, in a testament to the emirate's still strong ambitions to become a global business hub despite the debt problems that have dampened investor optimism.
Burj Dubai, whose opening has been delayed twice since construction began in 2004, will mark another milestone for the deeply indebted emirate with a penchant for seeking new records.
Dubai, one of seven members of the United Arab Emirates, gained a reputation for excess with the creation of man-made islands shaped like palms and an indoor ski slope in the desert.
AdvertisementWith investor confidence in Dubai badly bruised by the emirate's announcement in November that it would seek a debt standstill for one of its largest conglomerates, the Burj Dubai is seen as a positive start to the year after a bleak 2009.
The project has been scrutinised by human rights groups, who have objected to its treatment of labourers, as well as by environmentalists who said the tower would act as a power vacuum, increasing the city's already massive carbon footprint.
Developer Emaar Properties spent $1.5 billion on the tower since construction began in 2004.
The building's official height will be disclosed later today, though it is certain to exceed the 800-metre mark. The world's second-highest tower, Taipei 101 in Taiwan, stands at slightly above 500 metres.
Burj Dubai has 200 storeys of which about 165 are inhabitable and opens 1,325 days after excavation work started in 2004.
It took 22 million man hours to complete construction.
The tower contains 330,000 cubic metres of concrete, 39,000 m/t of reinforced steel, 103,000 square metres of glass and 15,500 square metres of embossed stainless steel.
The weight of the empty building is 500,000 tonnes.
Total built-up area is 526,760 square metres, of which 171,870 square metres is residential and 27,870 square metres is office space.
The structure will host the highest observation deck, swimming pool, elevator, restaurant and fountain in the world.
There are 900 residences available in addition to the soon-to-open Armani hotel. Owner Emaar said 90 percent of the building has been sold.
The building is covered by 24,348 cladding panels to help it withstand the UAE's summer heat.
Good technical detail in this article
- PVC King
Someone should have told their extensive PR machine of their intentions before the press releases were issued.
- PVC King