Volume 27, Issue 5- September/October 2013

From the Editor
Bigger is Not Always Better

Bigger isn’t inherently better, and nowhere is that logic more applicable than in the recent race to the skies with the global trend to erect the tallest buildings possible.

While the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is currently the world’s tallest building at 2,717 feet, it might not be for long.

Inside this edition, you’ll learn that more than 600 buildings of at least 656 feet (200 meters) in height - or about 60 stories high – are either currently under construction or in the planning stages, according to the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

There are currently just three buildings in the world – the Burj Khalifa, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia and China’s Taipei 101 - that stand at least 1,640 feet (500 meters) tall, but there are plans for ten more by 2020, including the $1.2 billion Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. That building is scheduled to become the world’s first 1,000-meter tower upon its completion in 2019.

The Burj Khalifa is truly an amazing feat, consisting of 1.5 million square feet of reflective glazing and aluminum and textured stainless steel spandrel panels with vertical tubular fins. The cladding system is designed to withstand Dubai’s extreme summer temperatures. More than 26,000 glass panels supplied by Guardian Industries were used in the exterior cladding, with the building requiring more than 300 specialists from China to install.

Sure, it makes sense in some densely populated areas such as in China, where space is at a premium.

But, truth be told, the race to reach dizzying heights is more about ego in parts of the world such as the Middle East as much it is about necessity.

Never mind its lack of practicality in many cases. For example, 29 percent of the Burj Khalifa is currently listed as unoccupable, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

But even the Kingdom Tower’s reign could be short-lived following its expected completion in 2019. There are already plans under way in Tokyo to erect a building slated to rise a staggering 13,123 feet into the air sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Kids and their toys, right?

—John Hollis

Architects' Guide to Glass & Metal
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