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The World's Tallest Building

The World's Tallest Building

Burj Khalifa, Dubai. AP Photo

by Jeanette Leardi | The Current Events

STANDARD: National Geography Standards (National Council for Geographic Education) Essential Element IV: Human Systems. Standard 14: How human actions modify the physical environment.


In this article (below), students will learn about:

• The Burj Khalifa — the world’s tallest building.
• The process and cost of building the Burj Khalifa.
• The building’s special features, inside and outside.
• Chance Mitchell’s architectural ambitions.

AIM: How is this tall building different from all other tall buildings?

PRE-READING: Show the class pictures of famous tall buildings, such as Taipei 101 in China, the Empire State Building in New York City, the Willis Tower (Sears Tower) in Chicago, and the TransAmerica Building in San Francisco. See which buildings students recognize. Ask students where they think the tallest building in the world is located. Ask: How many floors do you think are in the world’s tallest building? Why do you think people build tall buildings?

DURING READING: On the board, write: It surprises me that… and I’d like to know more about…. Tell students to complete both sentences after reading each section of the article.

AFTER READING: Divide the class into small groups and have members compare the observations they recorded while reading. Have each group select one topic from their sentences that they can learn more about, conduct research, and report their findings to the class.

1. What, and where, is the Burj Khalifa?

It is the world’s tallest building; it is in Dubai, UAE.

2. What is the building’s “American connection”?

The Burj Khalifa was designed by Adrian Smith, an American architect from Chicago.

3. What does the Burj Khalifa have in common with the Chrysler Building in New York City?

Both buildings are in the special category of “supertall” buildings. Supertall buildings are taller than 984 feet.

4. What do you think are the five best things about the Burj Khalifa?

Possible answer: It has 160 floors; special robots clean the windows; it has the world’s fastest elevators and the world’s highest swimming pool and mosque; it was built to withstand strong winds and earthquakes.

5. What is the tallest building that you have ever seen? Describe it.

Answers will vary

Article for Student Reading

On January 4th, crowds jammed downtown Dubai (say: doo-BYE) for a spectacular ceremony. Fountains sparkled, and fireworks lit up the sky. Dazzling lights glittered along the sides of an enormous tower. People craned their necks to look up, up, and up. They gazed admiringly at the world’s new tallest building, the Burj Khalifa (say: ka-LEEF-uh).

Though the skyscraper’s home is Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the building has an American connection. Chicago architect Adrian Smith designed the shiny, majestic tower of concrete, glass, and metal. The Burj Khalifa has 160 floors. It is an astonishing 2,717 feet tall!

A Small, Tall City

Building the Burj Khalifa was no ordinary job. It took five-and-a-half years to complete and cost $800 million. Nearly 10,000 people worked more than 22 million hours to finish the structure. Finally, their efforts paid off! The skyscraper is more than 1,000 feet taller than the world’s next-tallest building. That honor goes to a tower in China known as Taipei 101.

The Burj Khalifa is impressive on the inside as well. The skyscraper houses what could be described as a small city. Shops, offices, 144 apartments, and an entire hotel fill its floors. The Burj is home to the world’s highest swimming pool, located on the 76th floor. It is also the site of the world’s highest mosque, found on the 158th floor. Though it is incredibly tall, the Burj Khalifa was designed to withstand strong winds and earthquakes.

The builders hope the Burj Khalifa will amaze everyone. Bill Baker, an engineer on the project, praised the tower. “The goal of the Burj … is not simply to be the world’s tallest building,” he said. “It’s to embody the world’s highest [hopes].”

Master Plan

Architect Smith carefully planned the Burj’s many features. For example, the building has the world’s fastest elevators. They travel at a rate of 40 miles per hour. That is about how fast cars usually move on open city streets! The elevators can transport people 1,450 feet upward to the observation deck on the 124th floor. That is the greatest distance any elevator has ever traveled.

Another unique feature of the Burj Khalifa is the way the outside of the building is cleaned. Three cars with mechanical arms run on tracks along the skyscraper’s sides. People control the cars and the robotic arms that do the cleaning. It takes the cars three to four months to do the whole job.

A Rise in “Supertall” Buildings

The Burj Khalifa is truly a one-of-a-kind tower. But it also belongs to a special group of buildings called “supertall” buildings. Supertall buildings are higher than 984 feet. New York City’s Chrysler Building, built in 1930, was the first one. So far, there are about 40 supertall buildings in the world. Within a year, that number is expected to double. Maybe one of the new skyscrapers will stretch even higher than the Burj Khalifa. For now, trying to outdo the sleek new tower is a mighty “tall” order!

Dream Builder

Third-grader Chance Mitchell of Temecula, California, dreams of becoming an architect one day. Chance collects scale models of tall buildings. And he is already making his own structures from cardboard and blocks.

In 2008, Chance found out about the Burj. He just had to have a model of it! That dream has already come true. Thanks to Make-A-Wish, he was given a 4-foot model of the Burj. Make-A-Wish helps kids who have serious illnesses. Chance has a heart problem.

Chance also got to chat with architect Adrian Smith. Smith told Chance, “I’m really impressed with your interest at such an early age. … Keep it up!”

The Current Events spoke with Chance about his love of tall buildings. He told us that he likes the TransAmerica building he saw in San Francisco. He said it looks like “a triangle that goes straight up.” Another favorite is the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. And, of course, he thinks the Burj is “totally awesome.”

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