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Sat 16 Jan 2010 04:00 AM

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Aspiring heights

Winning the contract to build the cumulus-piercing Burj Khalifa (previously Burj Dubai), which was worth a whopping US $800 million (AED3 billion) at the time, definitely saw some in the construction industry shed a few tears of joy. Philippe Dessoy of Besix, one of the contracting firms to win the job, was one such individual.

Aspiring heights
Dessoy says the most amazing engineering idea that went into building the Burj Khalifa was the innovative spire construction.

Winning the contract to build the cumulus-piercing Burj Khalifa (previously Burj Dubai), which was worth a whopping US $800 million (AED3 billion) at the time, definitely saw some in the construction industry shed a few tears of joy. Philippe Dessoy of Besix, one of the contracting firms to win the job, was one such individual.

"I don't think I will ever forget the moment we were told that we'd won the contract to build the tallest tower in the world," reminisced Philippe Dessoy, general manager of Besix. "It was a dream come true; it was the best day of our lives I think. And it was with pure inspiration and pride that we began our work on the Burj."

But despite the elation over the jaw-dropping paycheck, building the world's tallest tower wasn't as easy as it might have seemed and it did come with troubles of its own.

"Even though winning the contract was the best thing that had ever happened to us, we had quite a difficult time on the project all along," admitted Dessoy.

"We specially had a lot of trouble with some of the subcontractors. Emaar had selected some companies that were too small to be working on a project of this size and that created a lot of problems. We should have had a say in the selection process, but the client didn't extend that opportunity to us. But we've learned from that now and in the future things will be different. But all in all, everything that we had to go through was worth it in the end," he said.

And talking about doing things differently, Dessoy said the most creative and innovative piece of engineering that was undertaken during the construction of the Burj Khalifa was the controversy-courting spire that went on top.

"One of the most thought-about tasks during the construction process was how to get the spire on top of the concrete at 600m. One of the engineers from the Samsung team came up with the solution, which was quite brilliant. It was decided that the spire would be built inside the building in a shaft and then jacked up to its position on the top of the tower," said Dessoy.

Constructing the 140m spire was very challenging. It was fabricated on the ground in 25 parts, lifted by crane to the 156th floor, assembled and then hydraulically lifted, section by section, into place.

"It was pretty amazing. There were all these construction workers, working inside the shaft, which was quite a restrained space, putting together, piece by piece, the spire that was to crown the tallest tower in the world," he added proudly.

He concluded that the fantastic team working on the project was the main reason for its successful completion.

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