7 Star Hotel

How the Burj Al Arab was built

Construction of Burj Al Arab began in 1994. It was built to resemble the sail of a dhow, a type of Arabian vessel. Two “wings” spread in a V to form a vast “mast”, while the space between them is enclosed in a massive atrium. Architect Tom Wright said “The client wanted a building that would become an iconic or symbolic statement for Dubai; this is very similar to Sydney with its Opera House, or Paris with the Eiffel Tower. It needed to be a building that would become synonymous with the name of the country.” The architect and engineering consultant for the project was Atkins, the UK’s largest multidisciplinary consultancy. The hotel was built by South African construction contractor Murray & Roberts. The hotel cost $650 million to build.

Several features of the hotel required complex engineering feats to achieve. The hotel rests on an artificial island constructed 280 meters offshore. To secure a foundation, the builders drove 230 40-meter long concrete piles into the sand. The foundation is held in place not by bedrock, but by the friction of the sand and silt along the length of the piles.

Engineers created a surface layer of large rocks, which is circled with a concrete honey-comb pattern, which serves to protect the foundation from erosion. It took three years to reclaim the land from the sea, but less than three years to construct the building itself. The building contains over 70,000 cubic meters of concrete and 9,000 tons of steel.

Inside the building, the atrium is 180 meters (590 ft) tall. During the construction phase, to lower the interior temperature, the building was cooled by one degree per day over 6 months. This was to prevent large amounts of “condensation or in fact even a rain cloud from forming in the hotel during the period of construction.” This task was accomplished by several cold air nozzles, which point down from the top of the ceiling, and blast a 1 meter cold air pocket down the inside of the sail. This creates a buffer zone, which controls the interior temperature without massive energy costs.

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