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Sara Masjedi

David Larson


24 November 2013

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

I. Structural Design and Construction

The Burj Khalifa, originally named the Burj Dubai, is currently the worlds tallest

building with a record-breaking height of 828 meters. It has structural concrete that was

purposely shaped to reduce the wind forces on the tower, and the system has a buttressed core

where each wing has high-performance concrete corridor walls and perimeter columns that

buttress the other wings via a six-sided central core, or a hexagonal hub. The result is a tower

that is extremely stiff both laterally and torsionally. Each tier of the building sets back in a spiral

stepping pattern up the building which is advantageous because it confuses the wind where the

wind vortexes never get organized since the wind encounters a different building shape at each

new tier (Baker et al. 2007).

The high-performance concrete was a crucial aspect of the viability of the tower because

it limited movement and was able to speed up the construction time at rates of two or three levels

per week. The principal types of aggregate utilized for the concrete mix design are local gabbro

and limestone, but one of the challenges to designing pumpable concrete in the Middle East is

the use of crushed aggregate for both coarse and fine aggregate (Aldred 2010). The wall concrete

specified strengths ranged from C80 to C60 cube strength and utilized Portland cement and fly
ash. The wall thicknesses and column sizes were optimized using virtual work/LaGrange

multiplier methodology, and were fine-tuned to reduce the effects of creep and shrinkage on the

individual elements which compose the structure. The perimeter columns were sized such that

the self-weight gravity stress on the perimeter columns matched the stress on the interior corridor

walls to reduce the effects of differential column shortening due to creep between the perimeter

columns and interior wall. The top section of the tower consists of a structural steel spire

utilizing a diagonally-braced lateral system designed for gravity, wind, seismic, and fatigue

(Baker et al. 2007). The following figure illustrates the problems made by creep and shrinkage

and how it would get more difficult as the tower grew taller.
The tower was built with a foundation system of a piled raft founded on deep deposits of

calcareous rocks (Russo et al. 2013). The raft was constructed in four separate pours where each

raft pour occurred over at least a 24-hour period. The raft mix incorporated 40% fly ash and had

a water cement ratio of 0:34. The site geotechnical investigation consisted of four phases:

Phase 1: 23 boreholes with depths up to 90 meters

Phase 2: 3 boreholes drilled with cross-hole geophysics

Phase 3: 6 boreholes with depths up to 60 meters

Phase 4: 1 borehole with cross-hole and down-hole geophysics and depth equaling 140


A detailed 3D foundation settlement analysis determined that the maximum long-term settlement

over time would be about a maximum of 80 millimeters. This settlement would be a gradual

curvature over the top of grade over the entire large site (Baker et al. 2007).

For a building of this height and slenderness, wind forces and the resulting motions in the

upper levels became dominant factors in the structural design where an extensive program of

wind tunnel tests were undertaken. The wind tunnel program included rigid-model force balance

tests, full multi-degree of freedom aeroelastic model studies, measurements of localized pressure

tests, pedestrian wind environment studies, and wind climatic studies. Based on the results of the

aeroelastic models, the building motions are within the ISO standard recommended values

without the need for auxiliary damping (Baker et al. 2007). The height of this tower is an issue

compared to buildings of average height because wind forces would cause the tower to collapse

much easier if the foundation is not much stronger than that of average buildings.
II. Solving Problems

The Burj Khalifa solves the problem of low tourism rates in Dubai, which is due to an

overall mistrust of Arab nations, by becoming an internationally recognizable symbol. The

problem is important because without tourism, Dubai will not sustain its current rate of growth

and will therefore go bankrupt. The project solves this problem because it will bring more

tourism to the country and stop it from going bankrupt. There was great opposition to the tower

being built because it was seen as wasting money, but according to the Financial Times, it was

part of a wider economic strategy. If there was no Burj Dubai [Khalifa] would anyone speak

of Dubai today? You shouldnt look at these projects as crazy stand-alones. Its part of building a

brand (Nicolai 2013). With its creation, the Burj Khalifa would become an internationally

recognizable symbol, sparking tourism and interest in Dubai. The following is an image of the

Burj Khalifa.
III. Structural Engineering

The tower requires structural engineering due to the fact that measurements and tests had

to be conducted to determine that the 828 meter building would not collapse upon itself during

its construction. Without structural engineers, the Burj Khalifa would never have been

constructed because no other people would be able to calculate data that would make sure that

several different factors such as wind, foundation systems, concrete, and viable geometric design

among other things would be satisfied. Although many people would assume that architects

would be able to perform such tasks and that structural engineers would not be necessary in this

project, architects only design a building whereas structural engineers make sure that the

building can support itself and not crumble and fail.


1. James Aldred (2010) Burj Khalifa A New High for High-Performance Concrete,

Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers Civil Engineering (163) pp. 66-73

2. Gianpiero Russo, Vincenzo Abagnara, Harry G. Poulos, John C. Small (2013)

Reassessment of Foundation Settlements for the Burj Khalifa, Dubai, Acta Geotechnica

(8) pp. 3-15

3. Bernd Nicolai (2013) New Monumentalism in Contemporary Architecture, Anglia

(131) pp. 297-313

4. William F. Baker, D. Stanton Korista, Lawrence C. Novak (2007) Burj Dubai:

Engineering the Worlds Tallest Building, The Structural Design of Tall and Special

Buildings (16) pp. 361-375