Talking Towers - Who's on Top and Who's Not

AWR member Wanda (who lives in Calgary and recently posted a loving story about her amazing sister Judy O’Sullivan), sent me the pictures that sparked Firday’s blog entry on the Burj Dubai, now the world’s tallest building.

After reading the article, Wanda sent me a follow-up email commenting on how the Calgary Tower stacked up – it would take five of them (at 160 meters each), to almost equal the height of the Burj Dubai.

That comparison got me thinking more about tall buildings and structures, so I did a little poking around. Here’s what I found…

How Tall Is It REALLY?

Arriving at a list of the tallest buildings isn’t as straightforward as you may think. There’s a difference, for example, between ‘buildings’ and ‘structures.’ The CN Tower (which was the tallest structure in the world for 31 years until the still-under-construction Burj Dubai surpassed it on September 12, 2007), is not listed in Wikipedia’s list of the highest buildings in the world, because it’s a structure, not a building I presume.

Also (again according to Wikipedia) apparently there are:

Alternative lists of high buildings are maintained by the non-governmental Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. These lists, first defined and compiled in 1996 as a response to the dispute as to whether the Petronas Towers or the Sears Tower was taller, rank buildings in four categories: height of structural or architectural top; height of highest occupied floor; height to the top of roof; height to top of any part of the building.
In any case, the top five on the Wikipedia list by architectural detail are:
  1. Burj Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (818 m)
  2. Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan (509 m)    
  3. Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai, China (492 m)
  4. Petronas Towers 1 & 2, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, (452 m)    
  5. Nanjing Greenland Financial Center, Nanjing, China (450 m)
Coincidentally, I’ll be visiting Kuala Lumpur in a couple of weeks, where I shall no doubt have the opportunity to admire the famous Petronas Towers and the sky bridge that joins them 41st and 42nd floors.

(I once won a return business class ticket air ticket to Taiwan, and, had I not sold it, I might have achieved the dubious distinction of having gazed upon three of the five world’s tallest buildings… I wonder if there’s a facebook group for that…)

As we saw the other day, there’s some uncertainty regarding the percentage of the world’s construction cranes currently in Dubai (due in part to the problem of defining the kind of crane in question).

City of Giants

However, it’s easy to calculate, based on the aforementioned list, that close to 13 per cent of the world’s 101 tallest buildings spring from what was not so long ago an unknown patch of desert in a land far far away from just about everywhere. How things have changed.

The Dubai giants are:
  • Burj Dubai #1 (818 m)
  • Almas Tower # 18 (360 m)
  • Emirates Towers office tower # 19 (355 m)
  • Rose Tower #24 (333 m)
  • The Index # 29 (328 m)
  • Burj Al Arab # 31 (321 m)
  • Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel # 38 (309 m)
  • The Address Downtown # 41 Burj Dubai (306 m)
  • Emirates Crown # 51 (296 m)
  • Millenium Tower # 59 (285 m)
  • Twenty First Century Tower # 79 (269 m)
  • Al Kazim Towers 1 & 2 # 85 & 86 (265 m)
  • Vision Tower # 101 (260 m)

More Tower Trivia

The CN Tower, at 553.33 remains the tallest free-standing structure in the Americas; it attracts more than two million visitors annually.

The Eiffel Tower (324 m) is the tallest building in Paris; it claims to be the most visited paid monument in the world with an estimated 200,000,000 visitors since it was built in 1889.

But back to Dubai’s new Burj, which, at 818 meters is now both the tallest structure and highest building in the world. How might we give more meaning to that number?

Well, it’s 182 meter short of a kilometer from bottom to top. In other words, it's a half a mile high, or the equivalent of the combined length of eight standard football (soccer) pitches.

Stacked end to end you’d need 32 Shinkansen high-speed rail cars (average car length 25 meters; I rode in one during a November visit to Japan, it was a blast!); OR 158 Rolls Royce Silver Shadows (5.17 meters long), to match it.

In human terms, about 585 pygmies (any human group whose adult males grow to less than 150 cm, or 4 feet 11 inches, in average height), standing on each others’ shoulders might touch the top if they didn’t all fall over first. Of course some would have to stand on their tiptoes, depending on height variations. In contrast, you’d only need about 435 Michael Jordan clones.

Hey, that's pretty impressive.

But, to put things in perspective, remember that the earth’s circumference at the equator is about 40,000 kilometers (or 40,000,000 meters). That means it would take almost 50,000 (48,899 and three quarters, to be precise) Burj Dubais lying on their sides to circle the belly of the world just once.

Kinda’ makes ya’ think, doesn’t it Wanda?