DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, (AP) -The Burj Dubai skyscraper under construction here reached its 100th story on Tuesday, nearly two-thirds of the way in its relentless climb to become the world’s tallest building.
With 3,000 laborers adding a new floor nearly every three days, the $1 billion spire is days away from surpassing a neighboring skyscraper that is currently the tallest in the Middle East, Dubai-based developer Emaar Properties said.
“The tower is a symbol of the city’s pride and a statement of our arrival on the global scene as one of the world-class cities,” Emaar chairman Mohammed Ali Alabbar said.
When finished in two years, the silvery steel-and-glass building is expected to rise beyond 2,300 feet and more than 160 floors — dozens of stories taller than the world’s current tallest building, the Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan, which measures 1,671 feet and 101 floors.
It will also top the world’s tallest freestanding structure, Toronto’s CN Tower, which stands 1,815 feet.
The tallest building in the United States, the Sears Tower in Chicago, comes in at 1,451 feet, while the Empire State Building measures 1,250 feet. Before they were destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks, the World Trade Center towers both topped 1,360 feet. The Freedom Tower being planned for the site will measure 1,776 feet when it’s completed in 2011.
Emaar isn’t releasing its plans for the final height of the Burj Dubai so it can add more stories if a competing developer mounts a challenge. Predictions on skyscraper Web sites say the cylindrical Burj, which was designed by American architect Adrian Smith, will eventually loom over the city from a height of 2,600 feet or more.
Until the 1960s, the United Arab Emirates was an impoverished desert country whose residents survived through subsistence fishing, farming and small-time trade.
After it became rich from oil, Dubai began building skyscrapers to gain international prestige, not, like Hong Kong and New York, because of a shortage of land. But Dubai’s skyscraper binge has jacked up land prices so much that tall buildings are now the only feasible use of coveted building lots in the city’s central district.
Dubai has staked its fame on bold engineering, building attention-grabbing projects including manmade resort islands shaped like palm trees, a mall with indoor skiing, and a vast Disney World-style amusement complex that includes plans for an apartment building that rotates on its axis.
Exhibiting a flair for the luxurious that is typical of Dubai, one of the skyscraper’s high-profile tenants will be the Armani Hotel, developed in conjunction with Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani. The spire will also contain private apartments and offices.
Surrounding the dramatic concrete and steel tower is a $20 billion development project that includes several smaller towers set amid winding canals and a gargantuan shopping mall.
All of this development has angered many environmentalists, who say the Emirates is one of the biggest energy consumers and carbon dioxide emitters per capita on the planet. The World Wildlife Fund has asked the country to move toward renewable energy, especially solar power viable in one of the world’s sunniest climates.
Although the government says it is making improvements, construction hasn’t slowed on projects like the Burj Dubai. Motorists on the adjacent highway get dramatic daily views of the tower’s progress, with 10 cranes and the world’s fastest construction hoists zipping concrete slabs and giant bundles of steel rods to dizzying heights.
The construction division of South Korean conglomerate Samsung is building the tower, using a three-day-per-story construction technique pioneered on skyscrapers in South Korea.
“We’re not breaking any speed records, just the height record,” said Beejay Kim, Samsung’s Dubai-based business manager.
Only one building in the Middle East currently remains taller: the nearby Emirates Office Tower, a skyscraper resembling a razor blade that rises to 1,165 feet. The Burj Dubai is approaching that height now — it stands at 1,140 feet — and should surpass it within days.
Asked how long the Burj Dubai would hold the world record when it’s finished, Kim said he was unsure. “If anyone is looking for an even taller building, we are happy to build it,” he said.
The Middle East previously held the record of the earth’s tallest structure for about 43 centuries. Built around 2500 B.C., Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza dwarfed the competition at about 481 feet until 1889 when the Eiffel Tower was completed in Paris at a height of 1,023 feet, including the flag pole.