By Larry Dignan
Posting in Architecture
Dubai's inauguration of the world's tallest skyscraper is supposed to be a symbol of a new chapter for the debt-ridden country. Is the Burj Dubai tower a technology feat with "wind sourced" sustainability features or folly?
Dubai's inauguration of the world's tallest skyscraper is supposed to be a symbol of a new year and a next chapter as the country hopes to emerge from its financial mess.
However, the Burj Dubai tower---a technological marvel that is at least 160 stories high and designed to be a vertical city---is also a symbol of what's wrong with Dubai. The problem: Dubai has focused on the flash and not the substance of economic diversification. Dubai is a business-friendly commercial hub that got drunk on cheap loans and heady growth. Sans money from oil, Dubai bet big on commercial real estate and projects that just don't make a ton of sense.
Now Dubai is on the financial ropes and being propped up by Abu Dhabi, which has oil money and economic diversification plans. In late 2009, Dubai said that it would revamp its Dubai World conglomerate and would need new terms on its $26 billion in debt. Abu Dhabi gave its neighbor a $10 billion bailout.
According to the Associated Press, developers of the tower spent about $1.5 billion on the project. Is that the best use of capital? What's the economic value of having the tallest building in the world?
Those questions can't be avoided. Wikipedia has a good overview of the project, which kicked off in 2004. As far as construction and design goes, the Burj Dubai tower is quite the conversation piece. It's also a distraction from larger problems.
But while we're in the neighborhood, let's look at some of the key items about the tower from Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), the Chicago architectural firm behind the tower's design.
From SOM's discussion of the project:
Designers purposely shaped the structural concrete Burj Dubai—“Y” shape in plan—to reduce the wind forces on the tower, as well as to keep the structure simple and foster constructability. The structural system can be described a “buttressed” core. Each wing, with its own high performance concrete core and perimeter columns, buttresses the others via a six-sided central core, or hexagonal hub. The result is a tower that is extremely stiff torsionally. SOM applied a rigorous geometry to the tower that aligned all the common central core and column elements to form a building.
And on sustainability:
When designing the Burj Dubai, the design team looked to the sky for sustainable elements. In the extreme hot and humid climate of Dubai, the temperature between the ground (46.1ºC or 115 ºF) and the top of the building (38ºC or 100ºF) can vary up to 8 ºC (or 15º F). Satellite data was used to predict the humidity drop with altitude (up to 30% reduction in humidity between the top and bottom of the building), and analysis was performed to study the air density drop up the building (up to 10%). SOM’s “sky sourced” sustainability innovations will result in substantial energy savings.
The Burj Dubai also has one of the largest condensate recovery systems in the world, capturing up to fourteen Olympic size swimming pools of water per year, and one of the highest chilled water pressures ever used in a building to maximize efficiency. The tower is one of the first to utilize an active stack effect control in a super tall building to minimize energy loss.
On the design front, the Burj Dubai tower has some interesting features. However, you have to wonder if this tower symbolizes a new era or the old debt-ridden one for Dubai. As for sustainability for the economy and environment, the better choice may have been to refrain from the tallest tower wars.
Jan 3, 2010
Over time, "monuments" have very high return value for cities. They are an investment of sorts, with a very long return. This building is a 'monument'. I'm not sure exactly what it commemorates, but it's a monument none the less, and current events will be lost from memory when it still occupies that skyline. All monuments, the Temple Of Athena Parthenos, is no exception, tend to be considered folly at the time they are constructed, and tend to bankrupt treasuries. However, because they are symbols of what we CAN do, they tend to become the symbols we envision them to be. So be careful of your common sense judgements. They tend to reflect a very temporal, and limited, view of the world.
to bad that that gravitational forces were not discussed, since the forces would obviously be less at the top of the building and higer than at the first floor level.Temperature is only important externally, however gravitational forces affects everything including the people inside. Technically tank tops would float higher than they would at ground level.
It's a beautiful thing and its awesome scale is part of that, so I'm very glad it has been built. Of course, I can say this as one who doesn't have to pay for it. It's so easy to dismiss it as a massive white elephant; the most conspicuous spending possible, paid for on credit, by a state running out of money. But maybe there's method in their madness; this is prime real-estate, in the most exciting building in the world, in one of the most exciting developments, and will bring many moneyed people from far and wide. The cachet of this extraordinary project has brought interest from the very best stakeholders and investors, and as such it probably makes more sense, at least, than a half-hearted effort. Anyway, Dubai has been reshaping itself from dusty oil-well to premium holiday resort for some time now, in readiness of the oil's demise. How successful this can be in a featureless desert remains to be seen, but to be fair to them, I can think of dumber ideas.
Yes, it was a challenge though is that necessarily a reason to build? Considering the state of Dubai's finances, dearth of resources, and the socio-economic issues it seems to be excessive and irresponsible. Eventually, purpose driven projects will be the basis for all construction.
this has got to be the dumbest thing done by anyone lately. now that we have the results of an airplane loaded with fuel hitting the ny towers, and the result that anyone looking at the tv could have predicted, the next time the plane will be loaded only with fuel instaed of passengers, they do not burn well, and will hit much lower on the building. can anyone conceive of any method that can get a building that tall evacuuated even if all the stairs and elevators are still running? even if no one gets the idea to collapse the thing, what earthly purpose was there to build a building as tall. on a normal day, getting up or down from the upper floors could take an hour or so while waiting for elevators to move all the people who have to be moved. the quickest way down will be to jump, as we saw off the ny towers. parachutes would help till you hit the lower stories or other buildings on the way down. it does prove that the u.s. is not the repository of all the nut cases, though sometimes looking at congress it seems to be that way. the country spent its way into bankruptcy and for what? now they can boast of having the biggest prick in the world, or being one.