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Towering ambition in race for the sky

Post Time:Sep 24,2008Classify:Industry NewsView:368

It is officially the tallest structure ever built by man and it's getting taller. Much taller.

The developers of the Burj Dubai skyscraper in the United Arab Emirates announced earlier this month that their breathtaking creation had reached a staggering 688 metres, breaking height records in a way not seen since the Eiffel Tower doubled the height of the Washington Monument in 1889.

Skyscrapers, free-standing towers, radio masts - whatever category you choose - the Burj is the tallest of the lot, by a long stretch.

The previous tallest structure was a radio mast in Warsaw, Poland (646 metres), which collapsed in 1991 after decades of service. Next is the KVLY-TV mast in the United States, still standing at 629 metres. The Burj, which will house a mixture of apartments, hotels and offices, is more than 130 metres taller than observation/communication towers in Toronto and Moscow, and dwarfs the next-tallest skyscraper, the 509-metre Taipei 101 in Taiwan. Sydney Tower is just 305 metres high.

The Burj's intended final height is still a secret, to deter one-upmanship among competing developers. The most touted height is 818 metres, although some are forecasting a cloud-piercing 940 metres. The $5 billion, 160-floor project is due to be completed a year from now.

Former Melbourne resident Esther Ellero, who lives in Dubai, said the Burj was "one you can't ignore for sheer size" but it was also just one of many iconic buildings in the city.

"I would not like to live or work in that building, or near it, because you would stand little chance of escaping if there were a major earthquake, a major fire or terrorist attack," Ms Ellero said.

"Even if you were based at the top of the building, what kind of view will you have? Buildings, construction sites, sand and more sand, with a relieving glimpse of the sea."

Mitchell Killeen, an Australian executive with a petrochemical company in Dubai, said the Burj "does stick out, but not ridiculously. The thing that strikes me is that it looks very skinny at the top and quite fat at the bottom".

Skyscraper architect Greg Holman, of Harry Seidler and Associates in Sydney, said the Burj's record might not last long. Kilometre-high buildings are proposed for Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. One is also planned for Dubai, the Al-Burj.

That's exactly why the Burj Dubai's final height is a secret.

"That's another game they play; they keep it secret," Mr Holman said. "As soon as it's declared you'll have someone with a building on the boards that's a few metres taller."

The main problem with such tall buildings is the lift capacity, he said. The building must be designed as one skyscraper stacked on top of another, with transfer lobbies every 50 floors, otherwise the entire building would be taken up with lift shafts.

"It's like taking the train to work. You change, wait for another lift, and so on," Mr Holman said.

The skyscraper's main advantage is the prestige it will give Dubai, he said. "It's putting Dubai on the world scene, where Dubai has always wanted to be."

Source: www.smh.com.auAuthor: shangyi

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