On January 4, 2010, Dubai opened Burj Khalifa, a stunning 2,716.5-foot skyscraper that immediately smashed pretty much every record for tallest building and tallest this or that. This sparkling glass-and-metal building is home to a hotel, residences, and many other amenities. Here are five things you didn't know about Burj Khalifa...
The Building Originally Was Not Supposed to Be as Tall as It Is Would you believe the original plans for Burj Khalifa had it topping out at only 1,700 feet, and not the 2,716.5 feet that it spans now? The previous record holder for tallest building was the Taipei 101 building at 1,667 feet, and Burj Khalifa's original plans exceeded that by only 33 feet.
It Had a Different Name at First Throughout most of the building's construction and planning, it was simply called Burj Dubai. It underwent a last-minute name change to Burj Khalifa in honor of the leader of Abu Dhabi, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who bailed out Dubai after it sustained massive debt during the financial crisis of the late 2000s. Think of it as a version of getting building naming rights after making a donation to an organization here in the U.S., although in Burj Khalifa's case, it was meant as a tribute to show Dubai's gratitude.
The Building Is So Tall That It Has to Have Multiple "Refuge Floors" and Elevators That Reach 40 Miles per Hour A common feature in tall buildings, often required by law in Asia, is a refuge floor or refuge space. This is a fortified space where people can shelter should a fire break out. These spaces are part of a strategy for extinguishing fires in buildings too tall for firefighters to cover easily. Burj Khalifa is so tall that it has to have refuge floors every 25 to 30 stories, and those floors have their own air supplies. The building is also so tall that the elevators have to go at high speeds, often up to 40 miles per hour. And don't forget the change in weather; the temperature can drop as much as 15 degrees toward the top of the occupied section of the building.
The Building Is Specially Constructed to Sway in Wind in a Way That Occupants Won't Actually Feel Tall buildings suffer the effects of strong winds, so they have to be built to sway a little. Otherwise, stronger winds could damage the buildings easily. With a building as tall as Burj Khalifa, that sway at the top could be dizzying if not handled carefully. Architects for the building claim they "tuned" the building so that it would sway, but not in a way that matches the harmonics of the swaying from the wind. When a building sways due to wind, it moves back and forth, creating what would look like a sine wave on a graph. If the building were to sway back and forth with the same frequency (as in periodicity or cycle) as the waves of wind hitting it—or with the same frequency as a harmonic, which is a multiple of that basic frequency—that could intensify the swaying. By tuning the building so that the sway is on a different cycle than the wind, the swaying could be lessened, and the architects could try to control whether people on the upper floors actually feel any movement.
One of the Records Broken Includes Beating the Height of a TV Antenna Mast We hear so much about tall buildings being built in Taiwan, Dubai, and even major cities in the United States, like Chicago. But the record for the tallest structure before Burj Khalifa was built was held in North Dakota. A TV antenna mast for KVLY-TV in Blanchard, North Dakota, held the record of tallest structure in the world—briefly usurped by a radio mast in Poland, which later collapsed—and still holds the title of tallest humanmade structure in the Western Hemisphere. The mast isn't self-supporting, and it isn't an occupied building, so not a lot of people realize that this giant mast extends 2,063 feet above the ground, taller than many skyscrapers.