DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) The Burj Dubai skyscraper under construction reached its 100th story Jan. 16, approximately two-thirds of the way in its climb to become the world’s tallest building.
With 3,000 laborers adding a new floor approximately every three days, the $1 billion spire was days away from surpassing a neighboring skyscraper that is currently the tallest in the Middle East, Dubai-based developer Emaar Properties said.
“The tower is a symbol of the city’s pride and a statement of our arrival on the global scene as one of the world-class cities,” Emaar Chairman Mohammed Ali Alabbar said.
When finished in two years, the silvery steel-and-glass building is expected to rise beyond 2,300 ft. (701 m) and more than 160 floors — dozens of stories taller than the world’s current tallest building, the Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan, which measures 1,671 ft. (509 m) and 101 floors.
It also will top the world’s tallest freestanding structure, Toronto’s CN Tower, which stands 1,815 ft. (553 m).
The tallest building in the United States, the Sears Tower in Chicago, comes in at 1,451 ft. (442 m), while the Empire State Building measures 1,250 ft. (381 m). Before they were destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks, the World Trade Center towers both topped 1,360 ft. (415 m) The Freedom Tower being planned for the site will measure 1,776 ft. (541 m) when it’s completed in 2011.
Emaar isn’t releasing its plans for the final height of the Burj Dubai so it can add more stories if a competing developer mounts a challenge. Predictions on skyscraper Web sites say the cylindrical Burj, which was designed by American architect Adrian Smith, will eventually loom over the city from a height of 2,600 ft. (792 m) or more.
Until the 1960s, the United Arab Emirates was an impoverished desert country whose residents survived through subsistence fishing, farming and small-time trade.
After it became rich from oil, Dubai began building skyscrapers to gain international prestige, not, like Hong Kong and New York, because of a shortage of land. But Dubai’s skyscraper binge has jacked up land prices so much that tall buildings are now the only feasible use of coveted building lots in the city’s central district.
Dubai has staked its fame on bold engineering, building attention-grabbing projects including manmade resort islands shaped like palm trees, a mall with indoor skiing, and a vast Disney World-style amusement complex that includes plans for an apartment building that rotates on its axis.
Exhibiting a flair for the luxurious that is typical of Dubai, one of the skyscraper’s high-profile tenants will be the Armani Hotel, developed in conjunction with Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani. The spire also will contain private apartments and offices.
Surrounding the dramatic concrete and steel tower is a $20 billion development project that includes several smaller towers set amid winding canals and a gargantuan shopping mall.
All of this development has angered many environmentalists, who say the Emirates is one of the biggest energy consumers and carbon dioxide emitters per capita on the planet. The World Wildlife Fund has asked the country to move toward renewable energy, especially solar power viable in one of the world’s sunniest climates.
Although the government said it is making improvements, construction hasn’t slowed on projects like the Burj Dubai. Motorists on the adjacent highway get dramatic daily views of the tower’s progress, with 10 cranes and the world’s fastest construction hoists zipping concrete slabs and giant bundles of steel rods to dizzying heights.
The construction division of South Korean conglomerate Samsung is building the tower, using a three-day-per-story construction technique pioneered on skyscrapers in South Korea.
“We’re not breaking any speed records, just the height record,” said Beejay Kim, Samsung’s Dubai-based business manager.
The Middle East’s currently tallest building is the nearby Emirates Office Tower, a skyscraper resembling a razor blade that rises to 1,165 ft. (355 m).
Asked how long the Burj Dubai would hold the world record when it’s finished, Kim said he was unsure. “If anyone is looking for an even taller building, we are happy to build it,” he said.
The Middle East previously held the record of the earth’s tallest structure for approximately 43 centuries. Built around 2500 B.C., Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza dwarfed the competition at approximately 481 ft. (147 m) until 1889 when the Eiffel Tower was completed in Paris at a height of 1,023 ft. (312 m), including the flag pole.