Six degrees

Separated by 120 years, what links the Eiffel Tower to the Burj Khalifa?
Six degrees
By Gerhard Hope
Sun 27 Feb 2011 12:00 AM

Kevin Bacon has a lot to answer for – and it’s not just
sugary movies from the 80s and 90s. No, the American actor is at the heart of a
game movie buffs like to play where they’re challenged to link anyone in Hollywood to the
Footloose star in six steps or fewer.

The idea stems from the theory that
everyone in the world can be linked, via a chain of friends-of-friends
coincidences, to everyone else in the world. It’s a novel theory that got the
team at Construction Week thinking. Could two of the world’s most recognisable
structures be linked by a similar series of coincidences through contractors,
engineers, consultants and developers?

The question of a starting point was relatively easy. The Eiffel Tower
in Paris is one
of the world’s most easily recognised structures, dominating the skyline of the
French capital for the past 121 years. It’s a symbol of survival – having
outlasted its original intentions as a temporary structure to mark the first
centenary of the storming of the Bastille. It has weathered the storm of
controversy that surrounded its formative years, survived two world wars and an
order by Hitler to have it pulled down and junked by troops.

It is also a structure that continues to astound engineers
today. The skeletal design helps reduce the wind forces exacted on the
structure, meaning extra reinforcing for cladding and the additional
aerodynamic effects simply isn’t required.

The Eiffel
Tower was the first
structure to surpass the 300m barrier and held the record as the world’s
tallest building for 40 years. As a starting point for our Six Degrees of
(construction) Separation feature, the Eiffel Tower
ticks all the right boxes.

The second task was to find an end point, and Dubai’s world-topping
828m-tall Burj Khalifa seemed the logical choice. Not only does it now hold the
title once claimed by the Eiffel
Tower as the world’s
tallest building, it too offers a unique insight in to the cutting-edge
engineering principles of its time. While it may look as though the skyscraper
is based around the ‘bundled tube’ concept devised by SOM structural engineer
Fazlur Khan in the 1960s, the Burj Khalifa has a new structural system called
the buttressed core, which consists of a hexagonal core reinforced by three
buttresses that forms its ‘Y’ shape. This structural system enables the
building to support itself laterally and keeps it from twisting.

As the new holder of the Eiffel Tower’s
crown, the Burj Khalifa has attracted millions of visitors to the Downtown
Dubai development since it was opened just over a year ago. But how can the two
structures be linked by a series of six engineering firms, developers or
architects? Flick to the next page to find out.

1. Eiffel
Tower

Developer: City of Paris

Architect: Stephen Sauvestre

Contractor: Gustave Eiffel and Cie

Opened: March 31, 1889

Built by 300 workers who used 2.5 million hot rivets to
connect the 18,038 pieces of puddled iron together, the Eiffel Tower
was inaugurated on March 31 1889 and opened on May 6 in time for the Exposition
Universelle of 1889. Eiffel’s civil engineering background was vital in
developing the structure, and calculations behind its technical aspects still
stump architects today. The tower was
supposed to stand for 20 years, but its use as a radio mast meant it was too
valuable to scrap. Eiffel’s company still exists, operating as the Eiffage
Construction Group.

7,300 tonnes of puddled iron used in the structure

2. Millau Viaduct

Developer: Ministry of Public
Works, France

Architect: Foster + Partners

Contractor: A consortium led by Eiffage

Opened: December 14, 2004

More than a century after the Eiffel Tower
opened to the public, the ribbon dropped on the Millau Viaduct – a project that
harked back to Effiage’s civil engineering roots. With the Channel Tunnel
project under its belt, Eiffage led the winning bid for the Millau Viaduct project. Designed by British firm Foster + Partners, the Millau
Viaduct stands 343m and stretches 2.5km across the Tarn River Valley. It remains the highest cable
stayed bridge in the world.

$540m
cost of construction, in 2004

3. 30 St Mary’s Axe

Developer: Swiss Re.

Architect: Foster and Partners

Contractor: Skanska SA

Opened: April 28, 2004

It’s not the tallest or most spacious building, but 30 St
Mary’s Axe, or The Gherkin as it is known, is one of the most prominent on the
London skyline. Designed by Lord Norman Foster, the 40-storey tower was built
by contractors Skanska, with structural engineering by Ove Arup and Partners.
The 180m building was completed in 2003 and it is now owned by IVG Immobilien
AG and UK
investment firm Evans Randall.

£630m
building sale price in 2007

4. Heathrow
Airport

Developer: British Airports Authority

Architect: Richard Rogers

Civil engineers: Arup and Mott MacDonald

Opened: March 14, 2008

While Heathrow’s Terminal 5 was dogged during its first few
weeks of operation, the building itself is a fantastic structure. The main
terminal building is 396m long, 176m wide and 40m tall, making it the biggest
free standing building in the UK.
Its four storeys are covered by a single-span undulating steel frame roof, with
glass façades angled at 6.5 degrees to the vertical. Arup was responsible for
the above ground work, while Mott MacDonald was responsible for foundations and
substructures for rail, road, wastewater and passenger transfer services.

£4.2bn cost of construction of the terminal

5. Dubai
Marina Phase 1

Developer: Emaar Properties

Architect: HOK

Engineer: Mott MacDonald

Completed: 2004

Dubai’s Marina is one of the most prestigious areas
of the city to live, thanks to the work of two well-known engineering firms.
While Halcrow was appointed as engineers for the Marina itself, Mott MacDonald took on the
lead engineer role for the $327m Phase One of the project, including the
complete structural and building services design for six residential towers and
infrastructure covering a 10 hectare site. Mott MacDonald completed the work
for developer Emaar in 2004, and Phase 2 is now well underway.

25 acres size of Marina development in Dubai

6. Burj Khalifa

Developer: Emaar Properties

Architect: SOM

Contractor: Arabtec, Samsung and Besix

Opened: January 4, 2010

Emaar’s penchant for pushing the limits is personified by
not only the Burj Khalifa, but in every project it conducts. The company logged
a titanic 2010 with the completion of the Burj Khalifa and the Armani Hotel,
posting an annual revenue of $3.3b, 44% higher than the 2009 figure of $2.29b.
The Burj holds a list of world records, not only for its status as the world’s
tallest tower, but also for hosting the world’s highest mosque, highest night
club, highest swimming pool and other claims. While there are several plans for
taller towers, work has not yet begun on a Burj-beater.

1.5m
distance the Burj Khalifa sways in high winds

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