What is the Tallest Building in the World?

The Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates is the tallest building in the world.  Editorial credit: RastoS / Shutterstock.com
The Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates is the tallest building in the world. Editorial credit: RastoS / Shutterstock.com

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat is tasked with the responsibility of determining the height of buildings. According to the organization, a structure is considered a building if at least fifty percent of its height is habitable by man. Structures that do not meet the criteria are referred to as "towers."

The Tallest Building

The Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates is the tallest manmade structure in the world. The building was opened on January 9, 2010, and was known as the Burj Dubai. It stands 2,722 feet above the ground and has held the title of the tallest building in the world since 2008. In addition to being the tallest building, it is also the tallest self-supported structure in the world beating the Tokyo Skytree at 2,080 feet. However, the Tokyo Skytree brags of being the tallest tower in the world, while the KVLY-TV mast is the tallest guyed structure.

The Burj Khalifa was primarily constructed from steel and concrete. It was designed by Chicago based architecture firm Owings, Skidmore and Merrill LLP which is also credited for designing the One World Trade Center and the Willis Tower. South Korean firm Samsung C&T was responsible for the engineering and construction of the company. The government constructed the building with the aim of boosting tourism and diversifying the economy from the dominant oil industry. Burj Khalifa has about 30,000 residences, a thirty-acre manmade lake, a seven-acre parking yard, 19 residential towers, nine hotels and a shopping mall.

Height Increases

Since its inception, there have been several reports concerning plans to increase the height of the building. The architects who designed it claimed that it was designed to be 2,651 ft. It was developed as a virtual clone of the Grollo Tower in Australia which stands at 1,837 ft. Adrian Smith, one of the architects, proposed that the uppermost section did not align elegantly with the rest of the building and sought the approval to increase its height. His proposal was approved, and the height was increased to the current height. The change in height did not increase the number of floors.


The construction of Burj Khalifa began in January 2004. In early October 2009, the exterior was complete. It was officially opened on January 4, 2010, as part of the Downtown Dubai, a 490-acre development project. The building’s opening was delayed by the need to furnish it with upgraded and luxuries finishes. The design was also enhanced and remodeled to make it more aesthetically attractive


The Burj Khalifa has received several awards including:

  • American Architecture Award from Chicago Athenaeum, 2011
  • Project of the Year from Middle East Economic Digest, 2011
  • International Architecture Award, 2011
  • Interior Architecture Award, 2012
  • Design Excellence Award, 2012
  • Design Excellence Award: Special Function Room, 2012

Unique Experiences

On March 28, 2011, Alain Robert scaled the building to the top in six hours. Although Roberts usually climbs without safety gear, he was forced to use a rope and a harness in compliance with the UAE safety laws. The building has also been used as a BASE jumping site, both by authorized and unauthorized BASE jumpers in attempts to break world records.


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