Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest man-made structure

Are skyscrapers back in demand?At a time when it has not been particularly fashionable to construct super tall skyscrapers the Burj Dubai project has grabbed the title of the tallest man-made structure ever built even though the project is not yet finished. The start date for the venture was 21 September 2004 and it is expected to be completed and ready for use by September 2009.

Information about the Burj Dubai project


The venture is located in the Business District of Dubai and is part of a development known as “Downtown Dubai” which has received much comment in the press due to the emergence of Dubai as a central business hub in the Middle East. It is this central location in the region which has allowed such a massive project to get underway although we have seen the property market in Dubai softened over the last few months – something which was unexpected.


While the Burj Dubai project still has 12 months to run it has already reached a height of 707 m (2320 feet) which has surpassed the previous tallest man-made structure which was held by a radio mast in Warsaw. When the project is finished it is expected to reach a height of 818 m (2684 feet) with over 150 floors to be rented out as and when they are finished.

There have been rumours that the target height detailed above is actually way above and beyond the initial planned height of around 560 m (1837 feet). There had also been an indication that if the building lost the title of the tallest man-made structure there is further scope to add additional steelwork to the top of the building – however this would not be recognised in the battle for the title of the world’s tallest man-made structure.


To give you a feel for the cost of the “Downtown Dubai” venture the overall project is forecast to require funding in the region of $20 billion of which $4.1 billion has been allocated to the Burj Dubai structure alone. Whether the venture comes in on a budget or not remains to be seen but the recent increase in the price of steel and other relevant commodities is sure to put pressure on this estimated $20 billion outlay.

Aside from the cost of the actual project we have seen demand for office space at Burj Dubai mushroom as the venture nears completion with forecasts indicating current costs of $4000 per square foot (or $43,000 per square metre) which in itself must be one of the most expensive office-based developments in the world.

Materials used

As you might expect, a venture of this size will use substantial amounts of concrete, steel, glass and other materials used in the world of construction and business. To give you an example, the base foundations for the Burj Dubai building will use around 110,000 tonnes of concrete and 192 steel supports buried more than 50 m (164 feet) under the surface. However these figures are just for the foundations of the building and the overall figures make startling reading!

While remembering that the venture has not yet been completed it is forecast there will be over 700,000 tonnes of concrete and 39,000 tonnes of steel required which need to be transported to the ever increasing top of the building which in itself is a substantial challenge for any construction company in the world. As yet there have been no instances of concrete and steel being transported up to the heights in question so this in itself will also be another record for the Burj Dubai scrapbook.

As a side note you may be interested to learn that if the steel bars used in the project will laid end to end they will actually extend more than a quarter of the way around the world!

Construction workers

While the venture offers many labourers and skilled workers up to 5 years employment the project has not been without controversy due to the use of immigrant engineers and workers from areas such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and the Philippines. Reports in the press indicate some are earning as little as seven dollars a day with rumours that others may actually be earning less.

The rates of pay and some of the conditions associated with the project have seen workers riot and cause substantial trouble in the area although the involvement of the Dubai government seems to have quelled much of the unrest. While initially the project offered employment for 2500 workers this figure has now risen to a massive 7500 skilled workers and labourers reflecting the size and enormity of the project.

The total project

While the central building of the Burj Dubai project is the focal point it is worth remembering that the overall development in which Burj Dubai is situated offers 30,000 homes, nine hotels, 19 residential towers, a shopping mall, a 30 acre man-made lake as well as seven acres of parkland.

It may surprise many to learn that the title of the world’s tallest man-made structure has not been held in the Middle East since AD 1311 even though the area has seen many large and revolutionary property projects over the years. It appears that the government was intent upon grabbing the tallest structure title from an early stage in order to focus attention on the region and the ongoing change from a trade-based economy to one which is dominated by services, whether this is business or tourism.


After the demise of the World Trade Center we saw a number of projects scrapped which could have competed for the title of the world’s tallest man-made structure however the sector seems to be back in favour. When you consider the amount of material, the 22 million work hours and the massive construction headaches which the venture has posed the $20 billion price tag, while still on the high side, becomes a little more believable.

How long the Burj Dubai project remains the highest man-made structure in the world remains to be seen but once finished it certainly will be a prominent feature in the area although quite who would want to live or work in the higher floors of the building is something of a mystery!

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