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Burj Khalifa

Dubai, United Arab Emirates




6 years


$1.5 billion USD


United Arab Emirates
Project achievements

Economy boosted

Attracts millions of tourists each year

Used engineering skill

Created tallest building in the world

Area improved

Became an iconic feature of Dubai's skyline

A record-breaking structure

The Burj Khalifa is one of the most iconic buildings illuminating Dubai’s skyline.

Designed by Chicago-based architectural, urban planning and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM), who are also behind Manhattan House and Willis Tower, it was an ambitious undertaking.

Famed American architect Adrian Smith was responsible for the vision and design.

When work began on the Burj Khalif in January 2004, many of the project’s details, including its height, remained shrouded in mystery. When it opened in January 2010, the team behind the Burj Khalifa revealed it had broken not just one but a staggering eight world records.

As well as surpassing the Taipei 101, formerly known as the Taipei World Finance Centre in Taiwan, as the tallest building in the world, it also holds the record for the world’s highest occupied floor, the world’s highest outdoor observatory deck and the longest elevator travel distance.

It stands at a dizzying 828 metres, or 2,717 feet tall and 163 floors high. It also boasts two observatory decks. ‘At the Top’ stands at an impressive 452 metres, while ‘At the Top Sky’ is 555 metres in height, making it the highest observatory deck in the world.

Burj Khalifa in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

The Burj Khalifa has also caught the eye of Hollywood, having featured in numerous films.

Its most famous outing was in Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which saw Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt scale the building.

Fans of cinema might also have spotted it in Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) and Diamond Necklace (2012).

Did you know …

  1. At 828 metres, The Burj Khalifa is three times as tall as the Eiffel Tower and almost twice as tall as the Empire State Building. This means that its materials could stretch a quarter of the way around the world from end to end.

  2. It took 110,000 tons of concrete, 55,000 tons of steel and 22 million person-hours to complete the construction.

  3. The tip of the sphere of the Burj Khalifa can be seen from up to 95 kilometres away.

How the Burj Khalifa was built

Its innovative design is eye-catching but also serves a practical purpose. Architect Adrian Smith’s inspiration for the tower was the Hymenocallis flower Or Spider Lily – a regional desert flower.

Like the Hymenocallis, the Burj Khalifa has an elegant and balanced design. As the tower increases in height, the ‘wings’ or ‘petals’ of the flower re-configure the shape of the building. This mechanism reduces wind and the elements’ impact on the building.

Although rapid urbanisation in Dubai is responsible for environmental issues, including pollution and scarcity of resources, it has taken significant steps in recent years to build greener infrastructure.

The Burj Khalifa is an example of a building that embraces the green agenda and circular economy.

The tower is covered in solar panels, which heat more than 140,000 litres of water every day. In turn, this water is used by residents and businesses daily.

It also includes an irrigation system that collects condensation from the air conditioning, which provides 15 gallons of water a year, some of which are used on the building’s landscaping and plants.

Difference the project has made

The Burj Khalifa is home to over 900 residential units and can hold up to 10,000 people at any given time.

As well as private residents, it houses businesses ranging from real estate to construction firms, Armani hotels, offices, and fine dining. With its proximity to The Dubai Mall, it attracts legions of tourists, with almost seven million people visiting it in 2019.

What makes The Burj Khalifa such a standout building is its unique design and hybrid nature. As a multi-purpose construction, it captures the variety of modern Dubai, highlighting the city as a leader in the world of construction, business, and tourism.

People who made it happen

  • Adrian Smith – Architect
  • Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill – architecture, urban planning, and engineering firm
  • Samsung C&T – main contractor
  • William Frazier Baker – structural engineer

More about this project