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Fascinating Facts About the World’s Tallest Building

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Soaring 2,716 feet above downtown Dubai, Burj Khalifa is a true architectural and engineering marvel. Often described as a Vertical City, the elegant and futuristic skyscraper is the world’s tallest building. But the mixed-use super tower isn’t just renowned for its height — among its many curious features, it also has a restaurant, hotel, offices, and luxury apartments. Read on to discover more fascinating facts about the world’s tallest building.

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Burj Khalifa Holds Seven World Records

The Dubai cityscape with the Burj Khalifa pictured in the middle of sunset.
Credit: dblight/ Shutterstock

When it opened in 2010, Burj Khalifa took the title of the tallest building on Earth from Taipei 101. It didn’t just barely top the record either — it surpassed it by a whopping 1,049 feet. Being the tallest structure in the world is, however, just one of seven world records that the skyscraper claims. It is also the planet’s tallest free-standing structure and has the greatest number of stories. Floor 160, at a height of 1,916 feet, is the highest habitable floor of any building worldwide. The 148th floor is home to both the highest indoor and outdoor observation decks in the world. Two of the elevators are record breakers, too; one has the longest travel distance and another is the tallest service elevator.

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It Takes Under One Minute to Reach the 124th Floor

Two Arab men looking over Dubai from the Burj Khalifa.
Credit: FrankvandenBergh/ iStock

There are almost 3,000 steps to the building’s 160th floor. Thankfully, the building’s architects and engineers incorporated 57 double-deck elevators to meet the needs of visitors and residents. But these aren’t your average lifts — they travel at 22 miles per hour. This means that visitors can get to the At the Top observation decks located on the 124th and 125th floors in less than 50 seconds. Once there, it’s possible to enjoy panoramic views of the Dubai skyline and coastline from 1,496 feet in the air.

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The Structure Relies on Over 6,000 Miles of Reinforcing Bars

Aerial view of the skyline from the outside of the Burj Khalifa.
Credit: FrankvandenBergh/ iStock

It took six years, 380 engineers, and 22 million workforce hours to construct Burj Khalifa, and that says nothing of the great amounts of material that were used in construction. The skyscraper incorporates around 34,600 tons of steel rebar, which act as reinforcing bars to increase the tensile strength of concrete. If one were to lay the bars out end to end, they’d stretch for more than 6,000 miles, or the distance from Los Angeles to Portland, Maine, and back. Another impressive construction feat is that if all of the building’s aluminum were extracted, it would weigh the equivalent of five Airbus A380 jumbo jets.

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The Building Recycles 15 Million Gallons of Water Every Year

View of the Burj Khalifa main entrance water court.
Credit: Tuul & Bruno Morandi via Getty Images

Not only is Burj Khalifa a benchmark for super skyscrapers, but it’s also lauded for its sustainability and resourcefulness. The building stands amid a 27-acre park made up of pools, emerald-green gardens, and flourishing plant and tree species. In order to irrigate this green oasis, the building uses a condensation collection system to recover water from its cooling equipment. Throughout a typical year, it is able to collect and reuse 15 million gallons of water. That’s enough water to fill 20 Olympic swimming pools. The water is also used to power the dancing jets of the Dubai Fountain.

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The Top of the Tower Is Visible From Almost 60 Miles Away

The Burj Khalifa peaking through the clouds.
Credit: Abdullah Bersaev/ EyeEm via Getty Images

Dubai’s human-made Palm Islands are visible from space, but few, if any, of us have the opportunity to travel to the International Space Station. Nevertheless, those who want to see something impressive from afar can see the tip of Burj Khalifa from 60 miles away. That would be like spotting the top of the Empire State Building from the center of Long Island or viewing Chicago's Willis Tower from the opposite shore of Lake Michigan. The part visible from such a distance is a 700-foot-tall telescopic spire made from 4,000 tons of structural steel.

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Over a Million Lights Illuminate the Skyscraper at Night

The night view of the Burj Khalifa at night in Dubai.
Credit: nevereverro/ Shutterstock

Once the sun sets over the Persian Gulf, the Dubai skyline becomes one enormous light spectacle. Even so, Burj Khalifa is a standout among the skyscrapers. Every night, 1.2 million LED lights are switched on to illuminate the facade and perform the daily light shows and celebration projections. With so many lights, one might think that the building runs up a huge electricity bill. However, despite its size, it only ranks at number 10 on the list of the most expensive landmarks to light. The Eiffel Tower has 20,000 lights and is more than three times more expensive to illuminate.

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The Skyscraper Isn’t Connected to a Sewage System

View of the top of the Burj Khalifa.
Credot: Marco Biasibetti/ Unsplash

Despite all the money and expert planning that went into constructing Burj Khalifa, the building has a fairly rudimentary sewage system. As in many of Dubai’s skyscrapers, all the human waste generated in the building is collected in trucks and transported by road to a sewage treatment plant located outside the city. This is no small task, considering Burj Khalifa is one of Dubai’s most popular attractions, with over 900 residences and hundreds of hotel rooms.

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A Daredevil Once Scaled the Outside of the Building

View of the hustling and bustling city of downtown Dubai.
Credit: Kent Tupas/ Unsplash

While most visitors make use of the elevators to reach their destination within the skyscraper, one man took an alternative route in 2011. Alain Robert, aka the French Spider-Man, took six hours to scale the entire facade, including its crowning spire. Famous for his free solo climbing skills — he previously climbed Taipei 101 and Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers — Robert strapped himself to a safety harness for this feat in order to comply with local law. He climbed up one of the building’s central columns and made it to the summit just after midnight to witness downtown Dubai in all of its illuminated glory.

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