The world's tallest building

Development of the $1 billion Burj Dubai is definitely going ahead, says Emaar Properties' chief executive officer.

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By  David Ingham Published  October 8, 2003

Emaar won't tell us how tall it's going to be, but it is adamant that the Burj Dubai will a) be built and b) be the tallest building in the world. A J Jaganathan, chief executive officer of the property developer, also says that there is more than just the prestige of being the world's tallest behind this project.

"There is prestige in the project, yes, but it's not done solely for prestigious reasons," says Jaganathan. "It's based on some very sound commercial reasons. It's going to be based in a district that's not far away from an area where a major part of the population now lives.

"It's going to be a mixed use project that's residential, commercial, hospitality, serviced apartments, entertainment, retail... It's a city within a city, as we call it. The tower itself sits on a site where there will be a lot of other activity."

The development isn't just supposed to be about the world's tallest tower. Within the area on the Sheikh Zayed Road earmarked for development, there will be a shopping mall covering several million square feet; an 'old town' including offices, residential space and a hotel; and extensive landscaping. Residential and commercial units will be sold within the tower and the surrounding area.

Emaar says the money to construct the building is likely to come from internal sources: money coming in from current developments and money already on the balance sheet. The current budget is US $1 billion.

Construction work has already begun and is scheduled for completion in 2007. In the meantime, extensive testing and simulation is ongoing, and the safety aspects of the design continue to be carefully looked at.

"We have some pretty smart people working on it, both from an architectural point of view and structural point of view," says Jaganathan. In any case, the design in the pictures is "pretty close" to what the final building will look like.

Shareholders, Jaganathan insists, are right behind the project and he is in no doubt that the building will be filled. "We wouldn't take that kind of risks with our shareholders' money," he says. "We've shown good returns, we've given back quite a bit of capital [to shareholders] and we can clearly see that's on the rise and we want to maintain that."

As for the mantle of world's tallest building, a quick look around reveals that Burj Dubai will have to outdo Petronas Towers in Malaysia (452 metres) and the forthcoming Shanghai World Financial Centre, which should top 492 metres when it is completed in 2007.

Clouding the picture is the Taipei 101 Tower in Taiwan, currently under construction and which, its developer claims, will be 508 metres, when it is completed. That 508 metres includes a 60 metre tall antenna, however, which American designers do not consider as part of the height of the building.

Then there is the 541 metres that have been talked about for the reconstructed World Trade Centre. Will Burj Dubai top that? "It could," says Jaganathan "What is tallest? It's a transient title. It could be tallest today, but not tallest tomorrow. Taipei will be the tallest for some time, but then something else will come and take the title away."

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