Engineer Behind Construction Of Burj Khalifa Tells Of It’s Rise #Dubai - Dubai City Guide
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Engineer Behind Construction Of Burj Khalifa Tells Of It’s Rise
(1 June 2015)


Scores of visitors head to At The Top, Burj Khalifa every day. More than 1.87 million in 2013. But Ahmad Abdelrazaq, Sr Executive Vice President of Samsung C & T, has been right to the top. Right to the very pinpoint top of Burj Khalifa “many times”. Because American Abdelrazaq, of Lebanese descent, was the man entrusted to be in charge of the structural design of the 163-storey, 828m-tall skyscraper.

“It’s an unbelievable experience, the luxury of climbing to the highest point”, the engineer says. “And when you stand up there, it’s an unbelievable feeling”.

Asked to describe exactly what it’s like, he replies: “Sitting on top of the mountain, you feel like the whole city is underneath your feet”.

Despite having worked on numerous prestigious buildings throughout his career, Abdelrazaq, based in the Korean capital of Seoul, feels an enormous emotional attachment to Burj Khalifa. “You feel every part it”, he says. “I watched it grow. From the foundation every step of the way. When you build one floor, you think ‘right what’s the next one? I hope nothing happens’. You’re always keeping a watchful eye on the project from day one to make absolutely sure there are no technical issues on building such a complicated project”.

Excavation for Burj Khalifa, which had its official opening launch in January 2010 began six years before that, in January 2004. The superstructure of the building started in March 2005. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail was very much the mantra for the structural engineering of Burj Khalifa.

Pre-planning, says Abdelrazaq, was “the number one priority”. “Because a lot of the time with such a complex building, even having a small problem – when it’s repeated 160-odd times – it becomes a very, very serious problem. We had to make sure that all the pre-planning work that has to be done early on is a must, so you avoid any minute issues”.

Pre-planning was such a priority that there “wasn’t even a day you woke up thinking ‘what do I have to do?’” he says. There were, he admits though, “a lot of challenges”.

He insists: “The challenge of this building is the verticality. Because the elevator goes very fast, you need to make sure the verticality is right. You have to constantly worry about challenges like that. The other one is when you lift up the upper level of the building – the spire and the pinnacle. Being able to lift it smoothly without any hiccups – that was a huge challenge”.

The structural engineer and his team needed to watch for “building movement” and the “dynamic response of the building”. “Will the building start vibrating?” is the question he asked himself.

The movement of the tower from the base to the top and the allocation of weight was constantly monitored. Movement of the tower was also predicted over time.

Abdelrazaq adds: “We incorporated engineering treatment and dynamic wind effect. We spent a lot of time planning before we even went to the wind tunnel. In the wind tunnel it was just to confirm the concept that we proposed. We did a lot of wind engineering studies to see that the building was dynamically stable and very comfortable”.

Even from his base in Seoul, he still checks that it’s comfortable. “We’ve been watching the building for a long time”, Abdelrazaq says. “And it’s performing better than expected”.

Burj Khalifa “changed the face of Dubai”. But its title of the world’s tallest building is set to be overtaken by Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia. The tower, which uses “essentially the same design principles that were used for Burj Khalifa”, is going to be around an astonishing 1km tall – with an opening date of 2019 now predicted.

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