Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Insite: Arabian Heights

Introducing the Burj Khalifa in Dubai − the world’s tallest building by a long stretch.

The Burj Khalifa skyscraper opened in Dubai at the beginning of this year, becoming the world’s tallest man-made structure at 828m tall. It dwarfs the world’s next tallest building, the 508m tall Taipei 101 skyscraper in Taiwan.

Construction work began with excavation for the foundations in January 2004. Engineers had to overcome a range of technical and logistical challenges and it The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building by a long stretch. took 22M man hours to build the structure.

The tower is so tall and slender that it was essential to carry out extensive tests to determine whether it would be able to withstand the wind’s force. The building is narrow at the top, but much wider at the bottom. This large footprint means the massive load of the building is spread over a larger area.

The foundations consist of 192 concrete and steel cylinders called piles, which are buried in the ground and stretch 50m deep.

Special concrete mixes were needed to withstand the thousands of tonnes of the building’s weight. Each batch of concrete was tested to ensure it could withstand the pressure.

Dubai’s high summer temperatures, which can reach 50 C, made it too risky to pour concrete during the day. The heat meant the concrete was likely to set too quickly and unevenly, leading to large cracks.

To avoid this, ice was added to the mixture and it was poured at night when the air is cooler and more humid.

In total, the Burj Khalifa contains 330,000m³ of concrete, 103,000m² of glass, 15,500m² of embossed stainless steel and 39,000t of reinforced steel.

A short history of skyscrapers

Artist's impression of skyscapers planned for Blackfriars, London

Artist’s impression of skyscapers planned for Blackfriars, London

Engineers are creating taller and taller structures every year − and some of the earliest high-rise structures were built in the UK.

Housing as tall as 14 storeys became popular in Edinburgh in the 1600s, when the restrictions of the city wall meant the city had to expand upwards, rather than outwards.

In 1797 Shrewsbury became home to the “grandfather of skyscrapers”, the Flax Mill. It is the oldest iron framed building in the world, and was a precursor to the steel frame that makes skyscrapers possible today.

Chicago was the home of the first real skyscraper, built in 1885.

But London has had its share of modern skyscrapers, including the distinctive BT Tower and The Gherkin. The UK’s tallest building is One Canada Square in Canary Wharf − but not for long.

London’s skyline will soon be transformed by new icons such as The Pinnacle, Heron Tower, and Strata. The Shard at London Bridge will be tallest of all, towering over any other skyscraper in the EU at 310m tall.

  • For information on any of the new developments on the Burj or other skyscrapers, visit the NCE Major Projects Hub which lists over a hundred major engineering projects from around the world.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.