Burj Khalifa (Dubai) – The Truth Behind the Bling

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock – which is most un-ninja-like – then you’ve certainly heard about the Burj Khalifa (formally known as the Burj Dubai) tower designed by Chicago-based architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The Burj Khalifa is a building that breaks many records; not only has it claimed the title of tallest skyscraper in the world, but it is also the tallest structure ever built by man, soaring 828 meters or 2,717 ft to the top of its spire. It also boasts the world’s fastest elevators—they can travel up to 64 km/h or 40 mph—to service the Burj’s 160 floors, which include the first Armani hotel and residences, office space, the world’s highest a swimming pool on the 76th floor, the world’s highest outdoor observation deck on the 124th floor and the world’s highest mosque on the 154th floor.

Behind the Burj’s glimmering aluminum and glass facade and the fireworks and fanfare of the opening ceremony lies the untold story and the statistics you don’t read:

Low Working Conditions:

It probably comes as no surprise that workers received extremely low pay in return for risking their lives to build the $1.5 billion USD tower. Around 10,000-12,000 workers, mostly poor migrants from South Asia, built the Burj. With no laws governing minimum wages in the United Arab Emirates, some workers reported making less than $10 USD a day, according to a Human Rights Watch Study. It is also common practice for employers in Dubai to confiscate workers’ passports so they won’t leave the country before they’ve completed their duties.

Number of On-site Deaths:

Although many safety precautions were taken in the construction of the Burj Khalifa, it seems almost impossible that there was only one reported construction fatality. According to a spokesman for the developer, Emaar, a man fell to his death in 2007. However, the Human Rights Watch Study speculated that this was a cover-up, omitting deaths related to “heat exhaustion, overwork and suicide.”

Real Estate Values:

Emaar Properties recently claimed that 90 percent of the building had been sold, however it is not clear how much of it will be occupied. A spokeswoman refused to comment on whether buyers have walked away from deals at Burj due to the economic slump. On average, rents in Dubai have fallen between 30 and 60 percent in the last two years, which is consistent with rates for the Burj Khalifa apartments. According to Bloomberg News, “apartment prices in the tower have fallen to less than half of the 10,000 dirhams ($2,700) a square foot that they reached at the 2008 peak.”

The Storm Machine:

German newspaper Der Spiegel speculated that “the tower is so enormous that the air temperature at the top is up to eight degrees celsius lower than at the base. If anyone ever hit upon the idea of opening a door at the top and a door at the bottom, as well as the airlocks in between, a storm would rush through the air-conditioned building that would destroy most everything in its wake, except perhaps the heavy marble tiles in the luxury apartments.” Hyder Consulting, part of the Burj Khalifa project team, denies this claim. While the theory holds some merit and the technical term is called the “stack effect,” air locks have been incorporated and secure so that this condition would never occur.


No one would presume such a massive building would be “good,” for the environment, but SOM incorporated several sustainable strategies into the design. For example, a condensate recovery system will reduce the need for municipal water for tenant use and landscaping. They estimate that it will recover a volume of water equivalent to that of 14 Olympic-sized swimming pools per year.

Still, Arabian Business reports that the tower will require a total of 960,000 liters or 250,000 gallons of water per day and during peak demand, the electricity needed is “equal to burning 500,000 100-watt light bulbs concurrently.” But how long can the Burj Khalifa last before it burns out? According to Project Manager Greg Sang, the tower was designed to last about 100 years. While that is a decent lifespan for such a tall building, it pails in comparison to the other wonders of our world.

Fascinating Facts:

• During the peak in the design of the tower, SOM’s Chicago office had a team of 100 employees working on the project, as well as others in Dubai.

• According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the tower is comprised of 330,000 cubic meters or 11.6 million cubic feet of concrete, which weighs as much as 100,000 elephants, to put it in perspective, as well as 39,000 tonnes or 86,000 pounds of steel rebar.

• It takes three months to clean the windows from top to bottom. While the cleaning carousels may be technologically advanced, the window washers still use a traditional squeegee with soapy water.

• The external surface of the tower is equivalent to the area of 17 football fields or 25 American football fields.

• The top of the tower sways an estimated 1.5 meters, or the height of the average person, and is visible from 95 km or 60 miles away.

If anyone has some more facts to share about the Burj Khalifa please add them into the comments. I hope you learn’t something new about the tower which is without a doubt the largest Architectural feat to occur within my lifetime.


19 comments for “Burj Khalifa (Dubai) – The Truth Behind the Bling”

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  • emma

    very cool! thank you!

  • Muhammad Adel

    The World’s tallest tower closed a month after opening

  • rupak kumar

    It’s Realy Imazing. i never thought about the hight of this building and the safety intrument for storms. it’s glamourous .

  • freedomfor all

    How about this interesting info:

    The Georgia Guidestones monument is composed of three primary components: the center “Gnomen” stone, the capstone and the four “Guidestones.” Their dimensions and proportions are as follows:

    Capstone: 0.5m x 2m x 3m (proportions 1 : 4 : 6)
    Center “Gnomen” stone: 0.5m x 1m x 5m (proportions 1 : 2 : 10)
    Each Guidestone: 0.5m x 2m x 5m (proportions 1 : 4 : 10)

    Last week the official height of the awe inspiring Burj Dubai, now dubbed the “Burj Khalifa,” was revealed to be 828 meters or 2,717 feet tall, ten meters higher than expected.

    The prime factors for the tower’s height in feet are 11, 13 and 19 (11 * 13 * 19 = 2,717).

    The sum of the proportions for the Georgia Guidestones capstone is 1 + 4 + 6 = 11.

    The sum of the proportions for the Gnomen stone is 1 + 2 + 10 = 13.

    The Guidestones each have the proportions 1 : 4 : 10. However, there are four Guidestones. Taking this into account: 1 + 4 + 10 + 4 = 19.

    Astonishingly, these are the three prime factors of the height of the Burj Khalifa: 11 * 13 * 19 = 2,717.

    Yet another connection between the Georgia Guidestones and the Burj Khalifa

    …the Georgia Guidestones’ capstone has the proportions 1 : 4 : 6 and the former emir of Dubai, Sheik Maktoum bin Rashad al Maktoum, died unexpectedly on a trip to Australia on January 4, 2006 (1 / 4 / 6). He was 62.

    Considering the obvious Luciferian religious beliefs of the cultist who designed the Georgia Guidestones, the fact that the opening date (1 / 4 / 10) of the Burj Khalifa was encoded in the proportions of the Guidestones (1 : 4 : 10) very strongly suggests the two structures are linked.

    Now add the mind-boggling fact, detailed above, that the exact height of the Burj Khalifa was encoded nearly 30 years ago in the proportions of the Georgia Guidestones’ components. Combine this with the unexpected death of Dubai’s ruler on January 4, 2006, a date encoded in the proportions of the Georgia Guidestones’ capstone (1 : 4 : 6). Altogether, the linkage between the Georgia Guidestones and the Burj Khalifa is virtually a mathematical certainty.

    • nr23

      Nah its coincidence.

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  • Mike Drake

    Greedy Arabs got everything they have because foolish white men handed it to them!

    • Jebril

      Honestly the ‘white man’ has so little to do with the Burj Khalifa it’s laughable. It was constructed by Emaar (a UAE company) that hired Southeast Asian workers and designed by Samsung a South Korean company.

      The ‘white man’ had very little to do with the Burj Khalifa just like the ‘white man’ had very little to do with most of the Ancient wonders of the world, the world does not revolve around Europeans believe it or not. Even the ‘white’ engineers who worked on this building were using design concepts that non-whites invented:

      “Burj Khalifa uses the bundled tube design of the Willis Tower, invented by Fazlur Rahman Khan.”

      I really hate conversations like these but really this myth that the white man does everything and anything that’s great needs to be dispersed.

      • Chs Chs

        Pretty much everything you said is wrong. Emaar were the developer only. Samsung C&T were the contractor and it was designed by US firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

        Regardless, you missed the point Mike Drake was making (even if he was misguided).

        • Jebril

          Even if I got them mixed around, the point still stands, the ‘white man’ had very little to do with the Burj Khalifa’s construction. If the big thing they did was design which I did mention the quote I said still stands, the original design philosophies used behind the building were not created by the ‘white man’.

          Next thing you’ll be telling me that mosques were developed by white architecture too, oh I’ve already heard that one as well. Literally everything and anything that especially the Muslim world has managed to accomplish is somehow because of the ‘white man’ to you people.

          You people have no idea that the driving force behind the UAE and Dubai despite its multiculturalism are still ARABs.

          Hell if I’m to use the logic you people use the moon landing only happened because of an Egyptian.

          “The key scientist who helped NASA plan and identify the Moon landing location for Apollo 11 historic moon landing in 1969, El-Baz is currently a leading expert in the study of deserts and how to find and sustain water in such environments in the Arab world.”

          The ‘white man’ does a lot and again that’s why I hate these arguments because I don’t go around discrediting a whole race of people because they don’t live up to another race or some ridiculous nonsense. To act like one race is responsible for the modern world today is idiotic, and to act like if that race didn’t exist that the world would stop developing is even stupider. The world would continue to develop with or without the ‘white man’.

          • Chs Chs

            I made no reference to agreeing with the original comment so your long winded rant is wasted on me. I was just correcting the inaccuracies in your post.

  • northsideultras

    Modern capitalist slavery by the construction of the skyscraper, Arabs (15% of the population in UAE) learned a lot from the Western capitalist exploiters, they are too rich but do not assume any refugees from Islamic countries. Muslims are proud of their religion but among themselves they do not help, greatest enemies of Islam are the believing people themselves! Same motharfuckers like these capitalist exploiters and thieves here in the west! This world is so fucked up!!!

  • John

    Slave labor.

  • Helen Jones

    I heard that Burj Khalifa is an interesting place. I got deals from CityCard Dubai. My parents gave it to me as a birthday present.

  • Laurie Anne

    Less than $10 per day for life-threatening, slave labor. Disgraceful.

    • Jebril

      They make $300 a month which sounds like shit until you consider the salaries in India where shitting in the streets is seen as a normal thing.

  • Matthew Talmazan-Obol

    thats sad