By Jorge Manuel Zelaya Fajardo
August 13th, 2019
The human being has always had a fascination for challenging established records, and when we talk about the record of the tallest building in the world, this title falls upon the BURJ KHALIFA building, built in the central part of Downtown Dubai (a multi-stage megaproject and concepts) in the Republic of the United Arab Emirates.
The BURJ KHALIFA is simply impressive, whether we measure it in numbers or in letters, in aesthetics or functionality, in maximum height or in its foundation. 828 meters high, the building exceeds 9 buildings that are over 500 meters high, located separately in different countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and the United States. Its construction took 5 years and 4 months, with a 1.5 billion dollars budget , employing more than 12,000 workers throughout its construction process.
From the architectural point of view, its designer, the American architect Adrian Smith, designed the base of the building with the geometric shape of a Hymenocallis (a 6-petal white flower grown in the region of Dubai and India).
From the engineering point of view, the structure has unlikely numbers: a 12,000m3 concrete foundation with 196 piles, a high-performance energy efficiency system and top-level security protocols for the 160 habitable floors (49 floors for offices and 61 for apartments).
As a civil engineer (in my undergraduate training) this work simply captivates me for its majesty, dimensions and height. However, as a human being, there are three points in which I believe that the BURJ KHALIFA has left me a learning takeaway:
First: the limits of the human being are made to be expanded, or at least to seriously try it. The BURJ KHALIFA is, today, the tallest building in the world, leaving behind several distinguished buildings that for a long time reigned in the world for their height: the Empire State Building, the Sears Tower, the Petronas Towers and the Taipei 101. However, today the JEDDAH TOWER is being built in Saudi Arabia, and is expected to reach 1000 meters high. Some of us will think that the competition to make the tallest building in the world is not the most sensible of the competitions, but in the end, it challenges the existing and the probable, the economic and the viable. The sustainable and the temporary. Human potential can expand its limits.
Second: in my Quality Management classes, we teach that every project must have three essential characteristics: a) Finish on time, b) Be within budget and c) Be of high quality. And, although they seem easy-to-reach standards, they are VERY difficult to achieve at the same time in the same project (as in the particular case of BURJ KHALIFA). Human potential must seek to reach and develop its maximum capacity with simple and clear standards.
Third: to get to the top of something, we must climb step by step. The example cannot be more crystalline than in the BURJ KHALIFA. There are 2909 steps to reach the top, and although it is very unlikely that someone does it by that means, the concept applies. We can all put one foot in front of the other to reach our highest goal.
Life is filled with projects. Maybe not as majestic as the BURJ KHALIFA, but I have come to believe that life IS THE MOST VALUABLE PROJECT IN ITSELF.