A new build is always a positive sign, especially as many of the world’s economies make the slow but steady climb back into growth. But does the return of “supertall” buildings signal the start of something new? Experts from Atkins around the world share their insights.
By Hussam Abdelghany, associate director, architecture, Middle East
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai stands at an unprecedented 828 metres. It holds the title of the world’s tallest building, which it took from Taipei 101 in 2010. Since then, this record and the structure’s unique design have positioned it as a global icon and helped consolidate the city’s reputation as a world-leading destination.
Tall buildings were originally constructed out of necessity when the need to accommodate the population clashed with the amount of available land. But in the last 25 years other drivers have emerged. In the Middle East, the complexity of the engineering and architecture required to build supertall – or in the case of the Burj Khalifa – mega-tall structures, reflects wider aspirations and supports the city’s vision. On the building’s website, Mr Mohamed Alabbar, who is the Chairman of developers Emaar Properties, says: “Burj Khalifa goes beyond its imposing physical specifications. In Burj Khalifa, we see the triumph of Dubai’s vision of attaining the seemingly impossible and setting new benchmarks …”
The heights we’re now reaching are possible because as a profession we’ve delivered the vision of our clients by thinking outside the box. We’ve used changes in technology and materials to address structural, and mechanical and electrical challenges, and to design facades that can withstand extreme pressure. And we’ve dramatically cut the time it takes to build up by using the latest software, including 3D modelling capabilities (BIM)
So much so, the Burj Khalifa will soon lose its grip on the “world’s tallest” title. Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia is currently under construction and once it is completed near the end of the decade it will be one kilometre high. The estimated time of construction is just five years. It doesn’t seem that long ago that it took almost that amount of time to build only a few storeys.
Buildings like the Burj Khalifa and Kingdom Tower define the skylines they’re a part of. But their impact on the city is felt most significantly at ground level. Building a striking tower is not the only driver for success – as Architects, Urban Designers and Engineers, we need to work together to build communities.
Building vertical cities with open gardens and different community spaces is always a dream for architects. Atkins had this dream in mind when we were appointed as Architect and Engineering Consultant for the Suites in the Skai in Dubai. Two 60-storey towers were designed to accommodate a hotel and serviced apartments in the centre of Dubai. The design integrates a private sky garden with a swimming pool for each apartment along all the floors of the tower. These integrated sky gardens elevate the experience of living in tall towers and provide unique identity to each residential unit. The design of these twin towers considered many passive design measures aligned with our strong commitment in Atkins to create sustainable designs for sustainable communities.
Towers are more than tourist attractions, office blocks, or statements made by a city. They’re also creating spaces for people to live and shaping the way they interact. For that reason we have a responsibility to consider the ways in which our work impacts on people’s lives and ensure we add value – building successful cities from the ground up.
See: Supertall buildings: a new dawn? Part one
See: The return of the supertall