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Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa
برج خليفة
The Burj Khalifa in October 2012
Former names Burj Dubai
Record height
Tallest in the world since 2009[I]
Preceded by Taipei 101
General information
Type Mixed-use
Architectural style Neo-futurism
Location 1 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Construction started 6 January 2004
Completed 30 December 2009
Opening 4 January 2010[1]
Cost USD $ 1.5 billion[2]
Architectural 828 m (2,717 ft)[3]
Tip 829.8 m (2,722 ft)[3]
Roof 828 m (2,717 ft)
Top floor 584.5 m (1,918 ft) (Level 154)[3]
Observatory 555.7 m (1,823 ft) (Level 148)[3]
Technical details
Floor count 154 usable floors[3][4]
plus 9 maintenance levels, 46 spire levels,[5] and 2 below-ground parking levels
Floor area 309,473 m2 (3,331,100 sq ft)[3]
Lifts/elevators 57 (55 single deck and 2 double deck), made by Otis Elevator Company
Design and construction
Architect Adrian Smith at SOM
Developer Emaar Properties[3]
Structural engineer Bill Baker at SOM[6]
Main contractor Samsung C&T Corporation, Besix and Arabtec
Supervision Consultant Engineer & Architect of Record Hyder Consulting
Construction Project Manager Turner Construction
Planning Bauer AG and Middle East Foundations[7]
Lift contractor Otis[7]
VT consultant Lerch Bates[7]

Burj Khalifa (Arabic: برج خليفة‎, "Khalifa Tower", pronounced English ), known as Burj Dubai before its inauguration, is a megatall skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It is the tallest artificial structure in the world, standing at 829.8 m (2,722 ft).[3][8]

Construction of Burj Khalifa began in 2004, with the exterior completed in 2009. The primary structure is reinforced concrete. The building opened in 2010, as part of the new development called Downtown Dubai. It is designed to be the centerpiece of large-scale, mixed-use development. The decision to build the building is reportedly based on the government's decision to diversify from an oil-based economy, and for Dubai to gain international recognition. The building was named in honor of the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan; Abu Dhabi and the UAE government lent Dubai money to pay its debts. The building broke numerous height records.

Burj Khalifa was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), who also designed the Willis Tower and the One World Trade Center, with Hyder Consulting chosen to be the supervising engineer with NORR Group Consultants International Limited chosen to supervise the architecture of the project. The design of Burj Khalifa is derived from patterning systems embodied in Islamic architecture, incorporating cultural and historical elements particular to the region such as the spiral minaret. The Y-shaped plan is designed for residential and hotel usage. A buttressed core structural system is used to support the height of the building, and the cladding system is designed to withstand Dubai's summer temperatures. A total of 57 elevators and 8 escalators are installed, with the elevators having a capacity of 12 to 14 people per cabin.

Critical reception to Burj Khalifa has been generally positive, and the building received many awards. However, the labor issues during construction have been controversial, since the building was built primarily by workers from South Asia and East Asia, who earned low wages and were reportedly housed in poor conditions.


  • Development 1
  • Conception 2
    • Records 2.1
    • History of height increases 2.2
    • Delay 2.3
  • Architecture and design 3
    • Plumbing systems 3.1
    • Air conditioning 3.2
    • Window cleaning 3.3
  • Features 4
    • The Dubai Fountain 4.1
    • Observation deck 4.2
    • Burj Khalifa park 4.3
    • Floor plans 4.4
  • Construction 5
    • Milestones 5.1
    • Real estate values 5.2
    • Official launch ceremony 5.3
  • Reception 6
    • Awards 6.1
    • BASE jumping 6.2
    • Climbing 6.3
    • Fatalities 6.4
  • In popular culture 7
  • Fireworks displays 8
  • Labor controversy 9
  • Gallery 10
    • Construction 10.1
    • Photos 10.2
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


Construction began on 6 January 2004, with the exterior of the structure completed on 1 October 2009. The building officially opened on 4 January 2010,[1][9] and is part of the new 2 km2 (490-acre) development called Downtown Dubai at the 'First Interchange' along Sheikh Zayed Road, near Dubai's main business district. The tower's architecture and engineering were performed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill of Chicago, with Adrian Smith as chief architect, and Bill Baker as chief structural engineer.[10][11] The primary contractor was Samsung C&T of South Korea.[12] The tower's construction was done by the construction division of Al Ghurair Investment group.[13][14]


Burj Khalifa was designed to be the centerpiece of a large-scale, mixed-use development that would include 30,000 homes, nine hotels (including The Address Downtown Dubai), 3 hectares (7.4 acres) of parkland, at least 19 residential towers, the Dubai Mall, and the 12-hectare (30-acre) man-made Burj Khalifa Lake. The decision to build Burj Khalifa is reportedly based on the government's decision to diversify from an oil based economy to one that is service and tourism based. According to officials, it is necessary for projects like Burj Khalifa to be built in the city to garner more international recognition, and hence investment. "He (Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum) wanted to put Dubai on the map with something really sensational," said Jacqui Josephson, a tourism and VIP delegations executive at Nakheel Properties.[15] The tower was known as Burj Dubai ("Dubai Tower") until its official opening in January 2010.[16] It was renamed in honor of the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan; Abu Dhabi and the federal government of UAE lent Dubai tens of billions of USD so that Dubai could pay its debts – Dubai borrowed at least $80 billion for construction projects.[16] In 2000s, Dubai started diversifying its economy but it suffered from an economic crisis in 2007–2010, leaving large scale projects already in construction abandoned.


  • Tallest existing structure: 829.8 m (2,722 ft) (previously KVLY-TV mast – 628.8 m or 2,063 ft)
  • Tallest structure ever built: 829.8 m (2,722 ft) (previously Warsaw radio mast – 646.38 m or 2,121 ft)
  • Tallest freestanding structure: 829.8 m (2,722 ft) (previously CN Tower – 553.3 m or 1,815 ft)
  • Tallest skyscraper (to top of spire): 829.8 m (2,722 ft) (previously Taipei 101 – 509.2 m or 1,671 ft)
  • Tallest skyscraper to top of antenna: 829.8 m (2,722 ft) (previously the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower – 527.3 m or 1,730 ft)
  • Building with most floors: 163 (previously World Trade Center – 110)[17]
  • Building with world's highest occupied floor: 584.5 m (1,918 ft)[18][19]
  • World's highest elevator installation (situated inside a rod at the very top of the building)[20]
  • World's longest travel distance elevators: 504m (1,654 ft)[20][21]
  • Highest vertical concrete pumping (for a building): 606 m (1,988 ft)[22]
  • World's tallest structure that includes residential space[23]
  • World's highest observation deck: 148th floor at 555 m (1,821 ft)[24][25]
  • World's highest outdoor observation deck: 124th floor at 452 m (1,483 ft)
  • World's highest installation of an aluminium and glass façade: 512 m (1,680 ft)[26]
  • World's highest nightclub: 144th floor[27]
  • World's highest restaurant (At.mosphere): 122nd floor at 442 m (1,450 ft) (previously 360, at a height of 350 m (1,148 ft) in CN Tower)[28][29]
  • World's highest New Year display of fireworks.[30]
  • World's second highest swimming pool: 76th floor[31] (world's highest swimming pool is located on 118th floor of Ritz-Carlton Hotel at International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong).

History of height increases

Burj Khalifa compared with some other well-known tall structures

There are unconfirmed reports of several planned height increases since its inception. Originally proposed as a virtual clone of the 560 m (1,837 ft) Grollo Tower proposal for Melbourne, Australia's Docklands waterfront development, the tower was redesigned by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM).[32] Marshall Strabala, an SOM architect who worked on the project until 2006, in late 2008 said that Burj Khalifa was designed to be 808 m (2,651 ft) tall.[33]

The design architect, Adrian Smith, felt that the uppermost section of the building did not culminate elegantly with the rest of the structure, so he sought and received approval to increase it to the current height. It has been explicitly stated that this change did not include any added floors, which is fitting with Smith's attempts to make the crown more slender.[34]


Emaar Properties announced on 9 June 2008 that construction of Burj Khalifa was delayed by upgraded finishes and would be completed only in September 2009.[35] An Emaar spokesperson said "The luxury finishes that were decided on in 2004, when the tower was initially conceptualized, is now being replaced by upgraded finishes. The design of the apartments has also been enhanced to make them more aesthetically attractive and functionally superior."[36] A revised completion date of 2 December 2009 was then announced.[37] However, Burj Khalifa was opened on 4 January 2010, more than a month later.[1][9]

Architecture and design

Cross-section comparisons of various towers. From top to bottom: Burj Khalifa, Taipei 101, Willis Tower, World Trade Center.

The tower was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), who also designed the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in Chicago and the new One World Trade Center in New York City. Burj Khalifa uses the bundled tube design of the Willis Tower, invented by Fazlur Rahman Khan.[38][39] Proportionally, the design uses half the amount of steel used in the construction of the Empire State Building thanks to the tubular system.[38][40] Its design is reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright's vision for The Illinois, a mile high skyscraper designed for Chicago. According to Marshall Strabala, a SOM architect who worked on the building's design team, Burj Khalifa was designed based on the 73 floor Tower Palace Three, an all residential building in Seoul. In its early planning, Burj Khalifa was intended to be entirely residential.[33]

Subsequent to the original design by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Emaar Properties chose Hyder Consulting to be the supervising engineer with NORR Group Consultants International Limited chosen to supervise the architecture of the project.[41] Hyder was selected for its expertise in structural and MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineering.[42] Hyder Consulting's role was to supervise construction, certify SOM's design, and be the engineer and architect of record to the UAE authorities.[41] NORR's role was the supervision of all architectural components including on site supervision during construction and design of a 6-storey addition to the Office Annex Building for architectural documentation. NORR was also responsible for the architectural integration drawings for the Armani Hotel included in the Tower. Emaar Properties also engaged GHD,[43] an international multidisciplinary consulting firm, to act as an independent verification and testing authority for concrete and steelwork.

The spiral minaret at the Great Mosque of Samarra

The design of Burj Khalifa is derived from patterning systems embodied in Islamic architecture.[20] According to the structural engineer, Bill Baker of SOM, the building's design incorporates cultural and historical elements particular to the region such as the spiral minaret. The spiral minaret spirals and grows slender as it rises.[44] The Y-shaped plan is ideal for residential and hotel usage, with the wings allowing maximum outward views and inward natural light.[20] As the tower rises from the flat desert base, there are 27 setbacks in a spiralling pattern, decreasing the cross section of the tower as it reaches toward the sky and creating convenient outdoor terraces. At the top, the central core emerges and is sculpted to form a finishing spire. At its tallest point, the tower sways a total of 1.5 m (4.9 ft).[45]

As part of a study which reveals the unnecessary "vanity space" added to the top of the world's tallest buildings by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), it was revealed that without its 244-metre spire, the 828-metre Burj Khalifa would drop to a substantially smaller 585-metre height without any reduction in usable space. As the report states, the spire "could be a skyscraper on its own".[18]

To support the unprecedented height of the building, the engineers developed a new structural system called the buttressed core, which consists of a hexagonal core reinforced by three buttresses that form the ‘Y' shape. This structural system enables the building to support itself laterally and keeps it from twisting.[20]

The spire of Burj Khalifa is composed of more than 4,000 tonnes (4,400 short tons; 3,900 long tons) of structural steel. The central pinnacle pipe weighing 350 tonnes (390 short tons; 340 long tons) was constructed from inside the building and jacked to its full height of over 200 m (660 ft) using a strand jack system. The spire also houses communications equipment.[46]

In 2009, architects announced that more than 1,000 pieces of art would adorn the interiors of Burj Khalifa, while the residential lobby of Burj Khalifa would display the work of Jaume Plensa, featuring 196 bronze and brass alloy cymbals representing the 196 countries of the world.[47] It was planned that the visitors in this lobby would be able to hear a distinct timbre as the cymbals, plated with 18-carat gold, are struck by dripping water, intended to mimic the sound of water falling on leaves.[48]

The cladding system is designed to withstand Dubai's extreme summer temperatures, and consists of 142,000 m2 (1,528,000 sq ft) of reflective glazing, and aluminium and textured stainless steel spandrel panels with vertical tubular fins. Over 26,000 glass panels were used in the exterior cladding of Burj Khalifa, and more than 300 cladding specialists from China were brought in for the cladding work on the tower.[46] The architectural glass provides solar and thermal performance as well as an anti-glare shield for the intense desert sun, extreme desert temperatures and strong winds. In total the glass covers more than 174,000 m2 (1,870,000 sq ft). The exterior temperature at the top of the building is thought to be 6 °C (11 °F) cooler than at its base.[49]

A 304-room Armani Hotel, the first of four by Armani, occupies 15 of the lower 39 floors.[3][50] The hotel was supposed to open on 18 March 2010,[51][52] but after several delays, it finally opened to the public on 27 April 2010.[53] The corporate suites and offices were also supposed to open from March onwards,[54] yet the hotel and observation deck remained the only parts of the building which were open in April 2010.

The sky lobbies on the 43rd and 76th floors house swimming pools.[55] Floors through to 108 have 900 private residential apartments (which, according to the developer, sold out within eight hours of being on the market). An outdoor zero-entry swimming pool is located on the 76th floor of the tower. Corporate offices and suites fill most of the remaining floors, except for a 122nd, 123rd and 124th floor where the At.mosphere restaurant, sky lobby and an indoor and outdoor observation deck is located respectively. In January 2010, it was planned that Burj Khalifa would receive its first residents from February 2010.[55][56]

A total of 57 elevators and 8 escalators are installed.[46] The elevators have a capacity of 12 to 14 people per cabin, the fastest rising and descending at up to 10 m/s (33 ft/s) for double-deck elevators. However, the world's fastest single-deck elevator still belongs to Taipei 101 at 16.83 m/s (55.2 ft/s). Engineers had considered installing the world's first triple-deck elevators, but the final design calls for double-deck elevators.[23] The double-deck elevators are equipped with entertainment features such as LCD displays to serve visitors during their travel to the observation deck.[57] The building has 2,909 stairs from the ground floor to the 160th floor.[58]

The graphic design identity work for Burj Khalifa is the responsibility of Brash Brands, who are based in Dubai. Design of the global launch events, communications, and visitors centers[59] for Burj Khalifa have also been created by Brash Brands as well as the roadshow exhibition for the Armani Residences, which are part of the Armani Hotel within Burj Khalifa, which toured Milan, London, Jeddah, Moscow and Delhi.[60]

Plumbing systems

The Burj Khalifa's water system supplies an average of 946,000 L (250,000 U.S. gal) of water per day through 100 km (62 mi) of pipes.[20][61] An additional 213 km (132 mi) of piping serves the fire emergency system, and 34 km (21 mi) supplies chilled water for the air conditioning system.[61] The waste water system uses gravity to discharge water from plumbing fixtures, floor drains, mechanical equipment and storm water, to the city municipal sewer.[62]

Air conditioning

The air conditioning system draws air from the upper floors where the air is cooler and cleaner than on the ground.[63] At peak cooling times, the tower's cooling is equivalent to that provided by 13,000 short tons (26,000,000 lb) of melting ice in one day,[61] or about 46 MW. The condensate collection system, which uses the hot and humid outside air, combined with the cooling requirements of the building, results in a significant amount of condensation of moisture from the air. The condensed water is collected and drained into a holding tank located in the basement car park; this water is then pumped into the site irrigation system for use on the Burj Khalifa park.[20]

Window cleaning

To wash the 24,348 windows, totaling 120,000 m2 (1,290,000 sq ft) of glass, a horizontal track has been installed on the exterior of Burj Khalifa at levels 40, 73, and 109. Each track holds a 1,500 kg (3,300 lb) bucket machine which moves horizontally and then vertically using heavy cables. Above level 109, up to tier 27 traditional cradles from davits are used. The top of the spire, however, is reserved for specialist window cleaners, who brave the heights and high winds, dangling on ropes to clean and inspect the top of the pinnacle.[64][65] Under normal conditions, when all building maintenance units will be operational, it will take 36 workers three to four months to clean the entire exterior façade.[46][66]

Unmanned machines will clean the top 27 additional tiers and the glass spire. The cleaning system was developed in Melbourne, Australia at a cost of A$8 million.[66] The contract for building the state-of-the-art machines was won by Australian company Cox Gomyl.[67]


The Dubai Fountain

Outside, WET Enterprises designed a fountain system at a cost of Dh 800 million (US$217 million). Illuminated by 6,600 lights and 50 coloured projectors, it is 275 m (902 ft) long and shoots water 150 m (490 ft) into the air, accompanied by a range of classical to contemporary Arabic and world music.[68] On 26 October 2008, Emaar announced that based on results of a naming contest the fountain would be called the Dubai Fountain.[69]

View of Downtown Dubai from the observation deck

Observation deck

View of The Dubai Fountain from the observation deck
View from the observation deck

An outdoor observation deck, named At the Top, opened on 5 January 2010 on the 124th floor. At 452 m (1,483 ft), it was the highest observation deck in the world and the highest outdoor observation deck in the world when it opened.[70] Although it was surpassed in December 2011 by Cloud Top 488 on the Canton Tower at 488 m (1,601 ft),[71] Burj Khalifa opened the 148th floor SKY level at 555 m (1,821 ft), once again giving it the highest observation deck in the world on 15 October 2014.[24][25] The 124th floor observation deck also features the Tellscope electronic telescope, an augmented reality device developed by gsmprjct° of Montréal, which allows visitors to view the surrounding landscape in real-time, and to view previously saved images such as those taken at different times of day or under different weather conditions.[72][73][74] To manage the daily rush of sightseers, visitors are able to purchase tickets in advance for a specific date and time and at a 75% discount over tickets purchased on the spot.[75]

On 8 February 2010, the observation deck was closed to the public after power-supply problems caused an elevator to become stuck between floors, trapping a group of tourists for 45 minutes.[76][77] Despite rumours of the observation deck reopening for St. Valentine's Day (14 February),[78] it remained closed until 4 April 2010.[79][80][81]

Burj Khalifa park

Burj Khalifa is surrounded by an 11 ha (27-acre) park designed by landscape architects SWA Group.[82] The design of the park is also inspired by the core design concepts of Burj Khalifa which is based on the symmetries of the desert flower, Hymenocallis.[83] The park has six water features, gardens, palm lined walkways, and flowering trees.[84] At the centre of the park and the base of Burj Khalifa is the water room, which is a series of pools and water jet fountains. In addition the railing, benches and signs incorporate images of Burj Khalifa and the Hymenocallis flower.

The plants and the shrubbery will be watered by the buildings's condensation collection system that uses water from the cooling system. The system will provide 68,000,000 L (15,000,000 imp gal) annually.[84] WET Enterprises, who also developed the Dubai Fountain, developed the park's six water features.[85]

Floor plans

The following is a breakdown of floors.[46][86]

Floors Use

Dimetric projection with floors colour-coded by function[87]

160–163 Mechanical
156–159 Communication and broadcast
155 Mechanical
149–154 Corporate suites
148 observatoryThe New Deck
139–147 Corporate suites
136–138 Mechanical
125–135 Corporate suites
124 observatoryAt the Top
123 Sky lobby
122 At.mosphere restaurant
111–121 Corporate suites
109–110 Mechanical
77–108 Residential
76 Sky lobby
73–75 Mechanical
44–72 Residential
43 Sky lobby
40–42 Mechanical
38–39 Armani Hotel suites
19–37 Residential
17–18 Mechanical
9–16 Armani Residences
1–8 Armani Hotel
Ground Armani Hotel
Concourse Armani Hotel
B1–B2 Parking, mechanical


Animation of construction process
Aerial closeup of Burj Khalifa under construction in March 2008

The tower was constructed by Samsung C&T South Korea, which also did work on the Petronas Twin Towers and Taipei 101.[88] Samsung C&T built the tower in a joint venture with Besix from Belgium and Arabtec from UAE. Turner is the Project Manager on the main construction contract.[89]

Under UAE law, the Contractor and the Engineer of Record, Hyder Consulting, is jointly and severally liable for the performance of Burj Khalifa.

The primary structure is reinforced concrete. Putzmeister created a new, super high-pressure trailer concrete pump, the BSA 14000 SHP-D, for this project.[22] Burj Khalifa's construction used 330,000 m3 (431,600 cu yd) of concrete and 55,000 tonnes (61,000 short tons; 54,000 long tons) of steel rebar, and construction took 22 million man-hours.[10] In May 2008 Putzmeister pumped concrete to a then world record delivery height of 606 m (1,988 ft),[22] the 156th floor. Three tower cranes were used during construction of the uppermost levels, each capable of lifting a 25-tonne load.[90] The remaining structure above is constructed of lighter steel.

Over 45,000 m3 (58,900 cu yd) of concrete, weighing more than 110,000 tonnes (120,000 short tons; 110,000 long tons) were used to construct the concrete and steel foundation, which features 192 piles; each pile is 1.5 metre diameter x 43 m long, buried more than 50 m (164 ft) deep.[23] The foundation is designed to support the total building weight of approximately 450,000 tonnes (500,000 short tons; 440,000 long tons).[91] A high density, low permeability concrete was used in the foundations of Burj Khalifa. A cathodic protection system under the mat is used to minimize any detrimental effects from corrosive chemicals in local ground water.[46]

Burj Khalifa is highly compartmentalised. Pressurized, air-conditioned refuge floors are located approximately every 35 floors where people can shelter on their long walk down to safety in case of an emergency or fire.[46][92]

Special mixes of concrete are made to withstand the extreme pressures of the massive building weight; as is typical with reinforced concrete construction, each batch of concrete used was tested to ensure it could withstand certain pressures. CTLGroup, working for SOM, conducted the creep and shrinkage testing critical for the structural analysis of the building.[93]

The consistency of the concrete used in the project was essential. It was difficult to create a concrete that could withstand both the thousands of tonnes bearing down on it and Persian Gulf temperatures that can reach 50 °C (122 °F). To combat this problem, the concrete was not poured during the day. Instead, during the summer months ice was added to the mixture and it was poured at night when the air is cooler and the humidity is higher. A cooler concrete mixture cures evenly throughout and is therefore less likely to set too quickly and crack. Any significant cracks could have put the entire project in jeopardy.

The unique design and engineering challenges of building Burj Khalifa have been featured in a number of television documentaries, including the Big, Bigger, Biggest series on the National Geographic and Five channels, and the Mega Builders series on the Discovery Channel.


Burj Khalifa and skyline of Dubai, 2010
  • January 2004: Excavation commences.[26]
  • February 2004: Piling starts.[26]
  • 21 September 2004: Emaar contractors begin construction.[94]
  • March 2005: Structure of Burj Khalifa starts rising.[26]
  • June 2006: Level 50 is reached.[26]
  • February 2007: Surpasses the Sears Tower as the building with the most floors.
  • 13 May 2007: Sets record for vertical concrete pumping on any building at 452 m (1,483 ft), surpassing the 449.2 m (1,474 ft) to which concrete was pumped during the construction of Taipei 101, while Burj Khalifa reached the 130th floor.[26][95]
  • 21 July 2007: Surpasses Taipei 101, whose height of 509.2 m (1,671 ft) made it the world's tallest building, and level 141 reached.[26][96]
  • 12 August 2007: Surpasses the Sears Tower antenna, which stands 527.3 m (1,730 ft).
  • 12 September 2007: At 555.3 m (1,822 ft), becomes the world's tallest freestanding structure, surpassing the CN Tower in Toronto, and level 150 reached.[26][97]
  • 7 April 2008: At 629 m (2,064 ft), surpasses the KVLY-TV Mast to become the tallest man-made structure, level 160 reached.[26][98]
  • 17 June 2008: Emaar announces that Burj Khalifa's height is over 636 m (2,087 ft) and that its final height will not be given until it is completed in September 2009.[35]
  • 1 September 2008: Height tops 688 m (2,257 ft), making it the tallest man-made structure ever built, surpassing the previous record-holder, the Warsaw Radio Mast in Konstantynów, Poland.[99]
  • 17 January 2009: Topped out at 829.8 m (2,722 ft).[100]
  • 1 October 2009: Emaar announces that the exterior of the building is completed.[101]
  • 4 January 2010: Burj Khalifa's official launch ceremony is held and Burj Khalifa is opened. Burj Dubai renamed Burj Khalifa in honour of the President of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan.[8]
  • 10 March 2010 Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) certifies Burj Khalifa as world's tallest building.[102]

Real estate values

In March 2009, Mohamed Ali Alabbar, chairman of the project's developer, Emaar Properties, said office space pricing at Burj Khalifa reached US$4,000 per sq ft (over US$43,000 per m²) and the Armani Residences, also in Burj Khalifa, sold for US$3,500 per sq ft (over US$37,500 per m²).[103] He estimated the total cost for the project to be about US$1.5 billion.[2]

The project's completion coincided with the global financial crisis of 2007–2012, and with vast overbuilding in the country; this led to high vacancies and foreclosures.[44] With Dubai mired in debt from its huge ambitions, the government was forced to seek multibillion dollar bailouts from its oil-rich neighbor Abu Dhabi. Subsequently, in a surprise move at its opening ceremony, the tower was renamed Burj Khalifa, said to honour the UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his crucial support.[8][104]

Because of the slumping demand in Dubai's property market, the rents in the Burj Khalifa plummeted 40% some ten months after its opening. Out of 900 apartments in the tower, 825 were still empty at that time.[105][106] However, over the next two and a half years, overseas investors steadily began to purchase the available apartments and office space in Burj Khalifa.[107] By October 2012, Emaar reported that around 80% of the apartments were occupied.[108]

Official launch ceremony

The opening ceremony of Burj Khalifa

The opening of Burj Khalifa was held on 4 January 2010.[109] The ceremony featured a display of 10,000 fireworks, light beams projected on and around the tower, and further sound, light and water effects.[110] The celebratory lighting was designed by UK lighting designers Speirs and Major.[111] Using the 868 powerful stroboscope lights that are integrated into the façade and spire of the tower, different lighting sequences were choreographed, together with more than 50 different combinations of the other effects.

The event began with a short film which depicted the story of Dubai and the evolution of Burj Khalifa. The displays of sound, light, water and fireworks followed.[110] The portion of the show consisting of the various pyrotechnic, lighting, water and sound effects was divided into three. The first part was primarily a light and sound show, which took as its theme the link between desert flowers and the new tower, and was co-ordinated with the Dubai Fountain and pyrotechnics. The second portion, called 'Heart Beat', represented the construction of the tower in a dynamic light show with the help of 300 projectors which generated a shadow-like image of the tower. In the third act, sky tracers and space cannons enveloped the tower in a halo of white light, which expanded as the lighting rig on the spire activated.[110]

The ceremony was relayed live on a giant screen on Burj Park Island, as well as several television screens placed across the Downtown Dubai development. Hundreds of media outlets from around the world reported live from the scene.[110] In addition to the media presence, 6,000 guests were expected.[112]



In June 2010, Burj Khalifa was the recipient of the 2010 "Best Tall Building Middle East & Africa" award by the CTBUH.[113] On 28 September 2010 Burj Khalifa won the award for best project of year at the Middle East Architect Awards 2010.[114]

A new award was bestowed on the Burj Khalifa by the CTBUH at its annual "Best Tall Buildings Awards Ceremony" on 25 October 2010 when the building was honored as first recipient of CTBUH’s new Tall Building "Global Icon" Award. According to the CTBUH the new "Global Icon" award recognizes those very special supertall skyscrapers that make a profound impact, not only on the local or regional context, but on the genre of tall buildings globally. Which is innovative in planning, design and execution, the building must have influenced and reshaped the field of tall building architecture, engineering, and urban planning. It is intended that the award will only be conferred on an occasional basis, when merited by an exceptional project perhaps every ten or fifteen years.[115]

CTBUH Awards Chair Gordon Gill, of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture said:

"There was discussion amongst members of the jury that the existing ‘Best Tall Building of the Year’ award was not really appropriate for the Burj Khalifa. We are talking about a building here that has changed the landscape of what is possible in architecture a building that became internationally recognized as an icon long before it was even completed. ‘Building of the Century’ was thought a more appropriate title for it."[115]

Beside these awards, Burj Khalifa was the recipient of following awards.[116][117]

Year Award
2012 Award of Merit for World Voices Sculpture, Burj Khalifa Lobby from Structural Engineers Association of Illinois (SEAOI), Chicago.
2011 Interior Architecture Award, Certificate of Merit from AIA – Chicago Chapter.
Distinguished Building Award, Citation of Merit from AIA – Chicago Chapter.
Interior Architecture Award: Special Recognition from AIA – Chicago Chapter.
Design Excellence Award: Special Function Room.
Excellence in Engineering from ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) – Illinois Chapter.
Outstanding Structure Award from International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering.
Decade of Design, Presidential Commendation in Corporate Space Small from International Interior Design Association (IIDA).
Decade of Design • Best of Category/Mixed Use Buildings from International Interior Design Association (IIDA).
GCC Technical Building Project of the Year from MEED (formerly Middle East Economic Digest)
Project of the Year from MEED.
2010 International Architecture Award.
Arab Achievement Award 2010: Best Architecture Project from Arab Investment Summit.
Architecture Award (Mixed Use) Dubai from Arabian Property Awards.
Architecture Award (Mixed Use) Arabian Region from Arabian Property Awards.
International Architecture Award from Chicago Athenaeum.
American Architecture Award from Chicago Athenaeum.
Commercial / Mixed Use Built from Cityscape.
Best Mixed Use Built Development in Cityscape Abu Dhabi.
Skyscraper Award: Silver Medal from Emporis.
Award for Commercial or Retail Structure from Institution of Structural Engineers.
International Architecture Award (Mixed Use) from International Commercial Property Awards.
Special Recognition for Technological Advancement from International Highrise Awards.
Best Structural Design of the Year from LEAF Award.
International Projects Category: Outstanding Project from National Council of Structural Engineers Associations.
Best of What's New from Popular Science Magazine.
Spark Awards, Silver Award.
Excellence in Structural Engineering: Most Innovative Structure from SEAOI.

BASE jumping

The building has been used by several experienced BASE jumpers for both authorized and unauthorized BASE jumping:

  • In May 2008, Hervé Le Gallou and David McDonnell, dressed as engineers, illegally infiltrated Burj Khalifa (around 650 m at the time), and jumped off a balcony situated a couple of floors below the 160th floor.[118][119]
  • On 8 January 2010, with permission of the authorities, Nasr Al Niyadi and Omar Al Hegelan, from the Emirates Aviation Society, broke the world record for the highest BASE jump from a building after they leapt from a crane-suspended platform attached to the 160th floor at 672 m (2,205 ft). The two men descended the vertical drop at a speed of up to 220 km/h (140 mph), with enough time to open their parachutes 10 seconds into the 90-second jump.[120][121]
  • On 21 April 2014, with permission of the authorities and support from several sponsors, highly experienced French base jumpers Vince Reffet and Fred Fugen broke the Guinness world record for the highest BASE jump from a building after they leapt from a specially designed platform, built at the very top of the pinnacle, at 828 metres (2,717 ft).[122][123][124]


On 28 March 2011, Alain "Spiderman" Robert scaled the outside of Burj Khalifa. The climb to the top of the spire took six hours. To comply with UAE safety laws, Robert, who usually climbs in free solo style, used a rope and harness for the climb.[125]


Within 17 months of the building's official opening, a man described as "an Asian in his mid-30s" who worked at one of the companies in the tower, died by suicide on 10 May 2011 by jumping from the 147th floor. He fell 39 floors, landing on a deck on the 108th floor. Dubai police confirmed the act as a suicide, reporting that "We also came to know that the man decided to commit suicide as his company refused to grant leave."[126] Daily Mail reported that on 16 November 2014, Laura Vanessa Nunes, a Portuguese National who was in Dubai on a tourist visa, fell to her death from Burj Khalifa's At the Top Sky Observation Deck on the 148th floor.[127] However, on 18 May 2015, Dubai Police disputed the report made by Daily Mail on this incident and clarified that this incident took place in Jumeirah Lakes Towers.[128]

In popular culture

  • Some scenes of the 2011 Hollywood movie, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, were shot on and in the Burj Khalifa where Tom Cruise performed many of the stunts himself.[129]
  • A replica of the Burj Khalifa, made entirely from 4,200 kg of high quality Belgian chocolate was displayed on 30 November 2014 at the Dubai International Airport. The 13.5-metre (44.2 ft) tall structure is a Guinness record feat by master chocolatier Andrew Farrugia and is a part of the 43rd UAE National Day Celebration.[130]
  • In 2013, the Dubai Crown Prince, Sheikh Hamdan went to the top floor of the building to celebrate and wave at news cameras, after the UAE won the World Expo 2020 bid.[131]
  • Soon after the Burj Khalifa was opened, French spider man, Alan Robert, climbed up to the top of the building using the external windows as a means to get there.[132]
  • A look-alike of the Burj Khalifa, known as the tallest building in Springfield was featured in the Simpsons episode YOLO which aired on 10 November 2013.[133][134][135][136]

Fireworks displays

  • 2010–2011, fireworks accompanied by lasers and lights were displayed from the Burj Khalifa, making it the highest New Year fireworks display in the world.[30] The theme of the 2011 New Year fireworks was the "New Year Gala", a tribute to the spirit of Dubai, which is home to over 200 nationalities. The display also marked the first anniversary of Burj Khalifa.[137]
  • 2011–2012, Burj Khalifa was fully illuminated in white, red and green colors, drawing on the colors of the UAE national flag, through the fireworks display. The celebrations were also a salute to the nation.[138]
  • 2012–2013, the fireworks display on Burj Khalifa, in a blaze of light and color, the fireworks engulfed the tower, synchronized and choreographed to a live performance by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. A window table for the New Year event was also arranged on the 122nd floor of the building at Atmosphere restaurant, at cost of 16,000 dirhams (4,300 dollars) per person.[139]
  • On 27 November 2013 Burj Khalifa was illuminated with lights and fireworks display following announcement of Dubai as winning city to host World Expo 2020.[140]
  • 2013–2014, the Burj Khalifa and surrounding areas were the site of a record-breaking fireworks display as part of the UAE's New Year celebrations, with a reported 400,000 fireworks being set off continuously for six minutes.[141][142]
  • 2014–2015, the Burj Khalifa was illuminated by a 828 m (2,717 ft) custom build LED facade which was installed on the building where light shows were displayed followed by the fireworks.[143][144][145]

Labor controversy

Burj Khalifa was built primarily by workers from South Asia and East Asia.[146][147] This is generally because the current generation of UAE locals prefer government jobs and do not have a good attitude towards private sector employment.[148][149] On 17 June 2008, there were 7,500 skilled workers employed at the construction site.[35] Press reports indicated in 2006 that skilled carpenters at the site earned £4.34 a day, and labourers earned £2.84.[146] According to a BBC investigation and a Human Rights Watch report, the workers were housed in abysmal conditions, and worked long hours for low pay.[150][151][152] During the construction of Burj Khalifa, only one construction-related death was reported.[153] However, workplace injuries and fatalities in the UAE are "poorly documented".[150]

On 21 March 2006, about 2,500 workers, who were upset over buses that were delayed for the end of their shifts, protested, damaged cars, offices, computers, and construction equipment.[146] A Dubai Interior Ministry official said the rioters caused almost £500,000 in damage.[146] Most of the workers involved in the riot returned the following day but refused to work.[146]



1 February 2006
29 August 2006
19 November 2006
21 March 2007
9 May 2007
15 July 2007
2 December 2007
4 December 2007
10 December 2007
11 March 2008
8 May 2008
8 May 2008


Aerial view of Downtown Dubai from Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa Name Plate
View of Downtown Dubai from Old Town Hotels and Restaurants with Burj Khalifa visible on the right
Night view of Downtown Dubai from Old Town Hotels and Restaurant with Burj Khalifa visible on the right
Burj Khalifa as seen from the Dubai Metro station
Dubai Skyline with Burj Khalifa 

See also


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External links

  • Official website
  • Building the Burj Khalifa
  • 360 degree view from the world's tallest building in Dubai by the Daily Telegraph
  • World's Tallest Building (By Far) – slideshow by Life magazine
  • The Burj Dubai Tower Wind Engineering PDF (597 KB); Wind Tunnel Testing PDF (620 KB) (Irwin et al., Structure magazine, June and November 2006)
  • Wind and Other Studies performed by RWDI
  • BBC reports: Burj Khalifa opening, with video and links; Maintaining the world's tallest building
  • World's Tallest Tower Opens – slideshow by The First Post
  • A 45 Gigapixel zoom and pannable photo from Gigapan
  • 4K video, JetMen flying around Khalifa with Yves Rossy and Vince Reffet
Preceded by
Warsaw Radio Mast
646.38 m (2,120.67 ft)
World's tallest structure ever built
2008 – present
Preceded by
KVLY-TV mast
628.8 m (2,063 ft)
World's tallest structure
2008 – present
Preceded by
CN Tower
553.33 m (1,815.39 ft)
World's tallest free-standing structure
2007 – present
Preceded by
Taipei 101
509.2 m (1,670.6 ft)
World's tallest building
2010 – present
Preceded by
Willis Tower
108 floors
Building with the most floors
2007 – present
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