9 Huge Facts About the Burj Khalifa
By Alvin Ward
If you think everything is bigger in Texas, you’ve clearly never paid a visit to Dubai. The ultra-modern city prides itself on going big with everything it does.
In addition to being the largest and most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai is also home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, which cemented its place in skyscraper history earlier this week when it welcomed Ghidorah, Mothra, Rodan, and Godzilla—the titans of the latest Godzilla installment, Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Here are nine things you might not know about this massive structure.
1. The Burj Khalifa is twice as tall as the Empire State Building.
Standing approximately 2716.5 feet tall, the Burj Khalifa snatched the title of “world’s tallest building” from Taipei’s Taipei 101, which held the record from 2004 to 2010 with a height of 1667 feet. While several other massive structures have been built since then, none has managed to top the Dubai landmark. Taipei 101, meanwhile, now ranks as the 10th tallest building in the world.
2. It took five years to build the Burj Khalifa.
Building the Burj Khalifa was a massive endeavor that, at its peak, required the assistance of approximately 12,000 workers per day. Which helps explain how the ambitious structure was completed in a rather short amount of time: excavation work on the building began in January 2004 and construction on the building’s exterior was completed in October 2009. It officially opened to the public on January 4, 2010.
3. The Burj Khalifa was designed to resemble a flower.
Adrian Smith, the architect behind the Burj Khalifa, designed the building to resemble the Spider Lily, a regional desert flower.
4. The Burj Khalifa houses a massive art collection.
Any building as large as the Burj Khalifa is bound to have a lot of wall space to fill. Altogether, the building’s art collection is enormous: There are more than 1000 pieces from some of the world’s best-known artists (with a focus on Middle Eastern artists) hanging within the property—many of them specifically commissioned for the building.
5. You don’t have to be in Dubai to admire the Burj Khalifa’s architecture.
One of the most recognizable architectural features of the Burj Khalifa is the “telescopic” spire that tops it, which is made from more than 4000 tons of steel. On a clear day, that spire can be seen from up to 60 miles away.
6. The spire is a controversial element of the Burj Khalifa.
Though the Burj Khalifa’s spire is one of its most defining features (and has a practical use: housing the building’s communications equipment), in architectural circles, it’s somewhat controversial—as are spires in general.
In 2013, the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat issued a report on what they deemed “vanity spires,” claiming that these uninhabited spaces are simply used to make a building stand that much taller. According to the report, 60 percent of the world’s tallest buildings wouldn’t be so tall at all without their spires. The Burj Khalifa in particular would lose 700 feet of its height.
7. The Burj Khalifa is home to one of the fastest elevators in the world.
It makes sense that the world’s tallest building would need to keep its visitors moving, and quickly. While it doesn’t hold the record for the fastest elevator, it reportedly ranks third (moving at a speed of 22 mph). It takes just one minute to get from the ground floor to the observation deck on the 124th floor.
8. The Burj Khalifa holds a number of world records.
Yes, it's world’s tallest building, but the Burj Khalifa holds a number of other world records, too. According to CNN, these additional superlatives include: the world’s tallest freestanding structure, the highest number of stories, and the highest occupied floor.
9. The Burj Khalifa may not be the world’s tallest building for much longer.
While the Burj Khalifa has enjoyed a nearly 10-year run as the world’s tallest building, it’s about to get some competition—from yet another Dubai construction project. In 2013, construction began on the Jeddah Tower, which will tower over the Burj Khalifa by an estimated 236 feet … if it ever opens.
Originally, the project was set to be completed by 2020 but has been plagued by a series of construction setbacks and other issues that have slowed development. At the moment, it’s expected to be completed in 2023, giving the Burj Khalifa a few more years to wear the “world’s tallest” crown.