Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Dubai renames world’s tallest building to Burj Khalifa

On the day of its official opening, the world’s new tallest building the Burj Dubai has been renamed to Burj Khalifa. The new name honours the president of the UAE and the ruler of neighbouring emirate Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan ("Burj" means tower in Arabic). The renaming shows that despite Dubai’s glittering exterior, it is now totally reliant on the oil wealth of Abu Dhabi to see it survive the financial crisis. Sheik Khalifa’s multi-billion-dollar bailout in November helped Dubai's biggest developer avoid a potentially disastrous debt default.

The official height of the astonishingly tall building was a closely guarded secret until yesterday when it was formally announced as 828m (2,716 feet). The building’s owner Emaar Properties flashed the announcement onto a giant screen during a spectacular fireworks and water show. 400,000 people watched on as fireworks cascaded from the tower's spire to the base and lasers blazed out from all levels. It was here the name change was also announced. The Burj Khalifa is a mixed use development which will house residential apartments, offices, and an Armani hotel. The tower’s first tenants will be moving in next month.

Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world according to the three main criteria of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). The CTBUH ranks the world’s tallest buildings based on ‘Height to Architectural Top,’ ‘Height to Highest Occupied Floor’ and ‘Height to Tip’. Burj Khalifa is 320 metres taller than the 508m Taipei 101, which had held the record for the world’s tallest building measured to the architectural top since 2004. The Burj is also the world's tallest structure surpassing the 630m KVLY-TV mast in North Dakota, USA. The tower also beats the 31-year-old record of Toronto’s CN Tower, which had been the world’s tallest free-standing structure on land since 1976 standing at 553m.

The vital statistics for the new building are hugely impressive. It took 22 million man hours to build. It has 200 stories using the world’s fastest lifts which travel at 18 metres a second (64 kph). It uses 330,000 cubic metres of concrete, 39,000 metric tonnes of steel reinforcing bar and 142,000 square metres of glass in 26,000 windows. An Australian company Cox Gomyl has won the contract to clean them all. Dale Harding from Cox Gomyl has no doubt about the scale of the project his company is taking on "It's an amazing building, people focus on the height of the building,” he said. “But really the breadth and width of the building is just huge when you're standing next to it."

But Blair Kamin in the Chicago Tribune wasn’t so excited by the new building; he was more upset by the impacts of the sudden name change. He says the t-shirts and caps for sale in the skyscraper's observatory and gift shop emblazoned with Burj Dubai are now outmoded on the first day that the observatory is opening to the public. The district in which the skyscraper is located is called "Downtown Burj Dubai” and is identified as such on road signs and maps. He also says the tower's owners just spent $2 million on Burj Dubai uniforms for security and hotel personnel. “How much will it cost to change the uniforms?” he asked “Or might it be easier to put patches on the uniforms that cover up "Burj Dubai" and say "Burj Khalifa" instead?”

Kamin says Dubai's leaders must have known that problems like this were coming when they agreed to the name change to the Abu Dhabi leader who bailed them out of their debt crisis. He said they were so desperate that they had no choice. This may be true. But it may also be true that Dubai’s rulers are truly grateful for Abu Dhabi’s intervention. Without Khalifa’s billions, Dubai would have been in such strife, that yesterday’s opening would have resembled a funeral rather than a celebration. The opening of the Burj Khalifa will certainly be a major psychological boost to the troubled emirate. Changing t-shirts, uniforms and street signs is a small price to pay for survival.

No comments: