Iconic Structures, Deconstructed: The Burj Khalifa


The world’s iconic structures are a sight to behold. The sheer size of the Burj Khalifa is matched by the glass facade that covers a majority of the 828-meter supertall. The Eiffel Tower, arguably the world’s most instantly recognizable structure, looks even more striking in the evenings thanks in part to the 20,000 light bulbs used to keep the tower visible to all throughout the night.

But behind these structures are the minutiae of facts and histories that collectively construct a fascinating narrative that not everyone may know. These structures, like Rome, were not built in a day, and in some cases it took many years—not to mention many workers and building materials—to bring them to life. In this series, Blueprint, presented by CBRE, highlights the fun facts and tidbits behind some of our favorite landmarks to give readers a new appreciation of the small details that make these structures so remarkable. For our second installment, we turn to the tallest tower in the world—the Burj Khalifa.

The tallest building in the world can be found in what may be the unlikeliest of places—a desert. But for the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the location only adds to its mystique and global significance. Standing at 828 meters, or 2,717 feet, the tower is meant to be a symbol of international collaboration and of “the new, dynamic and prosperous Middle East,” according to the Burj Khalifa’s official website. When it opened in 2010, it was indeed Dubai’s message to the world that it had become a global city.

The records the Burj Khalifa lays claim to today certainly add to its global allure. It’s the tallest freestanding structure in the world, and it’s home to both the world’s highest occupied floor and highest outdoor observation deck.

Here are 10 facts about the Burj Khalifa that show the great deal of craft and labor that went into creating this spectacular tower. 

1. Excavation for the building started in 2004, construction was completed in 2009, and the building was opened in 2010. It took a total of 1,325 days to complete the tower.

2. At the peak of the tower’s construction, some 12,000 builders and contractors worked on the structure per day. The project as a whole took 22 million man-hours to complete.


3. Exterior cladding for the tower—and its surface area of 1.2 million square feet—took two years, from May 2007 to September 2009. This project alone involved over 380 engineers and on-site technicians. Roughly 28,000 prefabricated panels of double-layered glass set within extruded aluminum frames were used for the building’s curtain wall. The team went from installing 20 to 30 panels per day to as many as 175 each day during the peak of construction.

4. The weight of the concrete used to build the Burj Khalifa is equivalent to 100,000 elephants. As for the aluminum used on the tower, it is equivalent to that of five Airbus A380 aircraft. The total length of stainless steel bull-nose fins used is 293 times the height of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, according to the Burj Khalifa’s website.


5. The Burj Khalifa used an impressive 70,000 LED bulbs, 100,000 brackets and 55,000 meters of cable to create an awe-inspiring light show in 2015. The show’s spectacular effects included lighting designs in the colors of the UAE national flag. It holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest LED-illuminated facade.

6. The elevators of the Burj Khalifa are among the fastest in the world. They can travel up to 10 meters per second and can reach the observation deck on the 124th floor in just one minute. There are a total of 57 high-speed elevators in the Burj Khalifa.

7. The Burj Khalifa was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the same company behind the designs for One World Trade Center and Willis Tower.

8. The tip of the Burj Khalifa’s sphere can be seen from upwards of 95 kilometers away (a distance of just over 59 miles). 


9. In 2014, the Burj Khalifa opened its observation deck to the public. At 1,821 feet above ground, the tower’s observation deck is the highest in the world

10. The Burj Khalifa has been a draw for two famous daredevils. Alain Robert, also known as the “French Spiderman,” climbed the Burj Khalifa in 6 hours, 13 minutes and 55 secondswithout assistance. And Hollywood star Tom Cruise filmed a harrowing stunt at the building, dangling 1,700 feet off the ground in a scene for the movie Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol.


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