The Burj Khalifa - architectural work of genius, or crazy ego trip?

Architects sometimes face unique challenges. No wonder architect liability insurarance is so high.

The tallest man-made structure in the world stands in Dubai, UAE. At 829.8 m, the Burj Khalifa redefined what it meant to push the architectural envelope. It is the epitome of what technology can do and a showcase of how far architecture and engineering have come. Construction started in 2004 and ended in 2010. Since then, the Burj Khalifa has become the symbol of the UAE. There are a few Islamic influences in the design in a bid to stay true to the culture of the region. The design of the building was by architect Adrian Smith.

The Purpose

The construction of the Burj Khalifa was about enhancing the development of Downtown Dubai. Dubai has significantly gone up the ranks in economic development. Famous for its rich oil fields, Dubai continues to excel as a commercial hub. The building also provides connections to mass transit systems, and that facilitates the economic activities of the region. Predominantly, the tower houses office, hotel and residential space.

Dubai strived to become one of the top tourist spots in the world, and the Burj Khalifa got it a rung higher up that ladder. The building attracted a lot of attention from the world over, and most tourists to Dubai visit the building.

The Construction and its Challenges

The design of the building was in a Y shape, and that was meant to make good use of the space available. The tri-axial shape consists of three separate wings that meet at the core. Another advantage of this design is that residential spaces could get a maximum view without neighbouring units overlooking each other. The residential units, hotel and office space, are in the separate wings whilst the core holds the lifts. To provide for the mechanical function of the building, there are five mechanical zones about 30 floors apart.

Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge that the architect and engineers faced was making a structure that would respond favourably to the wind. The solution to this problem was incorporating upward spiraling setbacks at the edge of each wing. By doing this, the structure decreased in mass as it gained height. At every different floor plate, the setbacks provide a different width, which reduces the wind force.

There were numerous wind tunnel tests to check the structural integrity of the building. With its slenderness, there were concerns over its ability to stand up to wind forces. The data from these tests guided architects and engineers on how to structure the building.

The height of the Burj Khalifa required a strong support and that is how engineers came up with the concept of “buttressed core”. It was vital to include concrete walls of premium performance to form a stable base. There are corridor walls that extend from the core and tie the wind buttresses together forming a stiff structure.

Another issue that architects and engineers had to bear in mind was the extremely hot temperatures in Dubai, especially in the summer. To counter that, the spandrel panels were made of textured steel and the cladding was done with aluminium.

The Burj Khalifa sought to break world records, and it did. With the use of modern technology, the building is a work of genius in every aspect.

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