Dubai's Burj Khalifa Is the Tallest Building in the World

By: Sarah Dowdey  | 
Burj Khalifa in the skyline
The Burj Khalifa stands high above the skyline of Dubai and, at 163 stories, is the world's tallest building to date. Rasto SK/Shutterstock

In the­ late­st pictures of the skyline of downtown tallest building in the world and the tallest human-made, freestanding structure in the world.

On July 22, 2007, the Burj hit 1,680 feet (512 meters), pushing ahead of Taiwan's Taipei 101 by 13 feet (3.96 meters). It then quickly surpassed Toronto's 1,815 (553 meters) foot CN Tower, which held the title of world's tallest freestanding structure for 31 years. At its grand opening in January 2010, the finished product had been renamed Burj Khalifa to honor the man who bailed the building out of debt, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi. It stood at 2,716 feet (828 meters) tall, with 163 stories.


That's taller than had been predicted. Speculators had forcasted that the world's tallest building would reach about 2,275 feet (693 meters). The building now towers 1,000 feet (304 meters) above the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, which had been the tallest in the world since 2004.

The tower is only one of the booming city of Dubai's superlative plans — plans that include the largest mall (currently, the Dubai Mall, the second largest mall in the world after the Iran Mall by total land area, is nearby), the largest ski run and the largest artificial island. Yet, it was not conceived as such. Designers originally planned for a 90-story, three-wing building but Dubai's ruler and mastermind, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, pushed the developers, Emaar Properties, to sensationalize the project and build a globally recognized structure.


The Tallest Building in the World

Burj Khalifa dominates the skyline of Dubai
The Burj Khalifa dominates the skyline of Dubai and stands as the tallest freestanding structure in the world. © Naufal MQ/Getty Images

Perhaps it's surprising that the tallest structure in the world would take its inspiration from a diminutive flower. Designers were motivated by the structural engineering of the spider lily Hymenocallis's whispy, layered form. The Burj Khalifa makes use of a "buttressed core" and has a modular, Y-shaped structure, somewhat reminiscent of the flower's sculpted shape. The construction process included the use of a structural system of reinforced concrete walls surrounding a hexagonal concrete core. The tower is designed to withstand high winds and seismic events that can affect high rise buildings.

The Statistics

Inside the Burj Khalifa, the world's fastest elevators whisk guests to an observation deck at 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour). Other lifts deposit residents at the 800 apartments between the 17th and 108th floors. Giorgio Armani even opened the first Armani Hotel in the building, as well as designer-furnished residential suites.


The Burj Khalifa's height and innovative design are matched by its state-of-the-art systems and other functional technical equipment. The site, including the tower and surrounding buildings, requires 145,000 tons (131,542 metric tons) of refrigeration. Low temperature chillers that run on a special glycol solution keep even the uppermost floors of the urban habitat cool. In case of system failure, an ice storage system provides an alternative source of air-conditioning.

To prevent condensation buildup, a collection system traps moisture formed inside of the air-conditioned tower, drains it to a holding tank and pumps the salvaged water into an irrigation system. The system is designed to collect 15 million gallons (57 million liters) of water per year. Three track-mounted building maintenance machines perform the work of a fleet of window-washers.

The Burj Khalifa comprises 1.85 million square feet (0.17 million square meters) of residential space, 300,000 square feet (27,871 square meters) of office space, as well as the Armani Hotel Dubai and the Armani Residences. And, of course, the world-renowned Dubai Mall is located nearby.

At levels 152, 153 and 154, The Lounge, Burj Khalifa spans the three floors and also features an outdoor terrace. The tower also houses health and wellness facilities, four pools and two observation decks.

According to the Burj Khalifa website, the building holds the following world records:

  • Tallest building in the world
  • Tallest freestanding structure in the world
  • Highest number of stories in the world
  • Highest occupied floor in the world
  • Highest outdoor observation deck in the world
  • Elevator with the longest travel distance in the world
  • Tallest service elevator in the world


Lots More Information

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More Great Links

  • Arabian Business. "World's highest lounge opens at top of Dubai's Burj Khalifa." Feb. 13, 2019 (March 21, 2023).
  • Burj Khalifa (March 21, 2023).
  • Business Standard. "World's First Armani Hotel Opens in Dubai." Jan. 20, 2013. (March 21, 2023).,world,%20tallest%20tower%2C%20Burj%20Khalifa.
  • Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. (March 21, 2023)
  • India Today. "When Burj Dubai was renamed to honour UAE's tallest leader Sheikh Khalifa." May 13, 2022. (March 21, 2023).