Friday, October 14, 2011
The goal of the Burj Khalifa was not simply to be the world’s tallest building; it was to embody the world’s highest aspirations. By necessity, such a lofty project goal required pushing current analyses, materials, and construction technologies – literally - to new heights. Standing at 828 meters, the tower is the tallest building in the world, topping all three categories as defined by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. The project represents the collaboration of literally thousands of people from across the globe, all striving to build a structure which pushes the limits of our current technology in order to create something never before seen.

The Burj Khalifa’s design required intense collaboration between architect and engineer. In order to enable the tower’s extreme height and promote the most efficient use of space, the team created a new structural system. Named the “buttressed core”, each of the three wings buttresses the others via a six-sided central core, forming a tri-axial, “Y” shaped plan. The building’s shape and structural systems are the result of a deliberate effort to manage wind and gravity—the two dominant considerations in the design of tall buildings. An extensive series of wind tunnel tests, combined with “tuning” the structure, enable the achievement of a building of unprecedented height. These efforts were united with the latest construction technology, culminating in the grand opening of the tower in 2010.

By combining cutting-edge technologies with efficient design principles, SOM has created a vertical city that has become a model for the development of future urban centers and speaks to an ever-growing global movement towards compact, livable urban areas. This lecture will provide an overview of the engineering features of the world’s tallest building, as well as discuss the challenges faced in designing this unique and unprecedented structure.

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