Sharjah, Saturday, May 14, 2011– Eric Tomich, an associate director and architect at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), gave a presentation entitled Burj Khalifa: A Case Study in Collaborative Design and Engineering at the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) atAmerican University of Sarjah (AUS)
Tomich discussed the collaborative process involved in the designing and construction of the Burj Khalifa, as well as the economic circumstances surrounding the construction. “Tall buildings like the Burj Khalifa are often only built because the economic conditions allow it,” he said. “At the time the Burj Khalifa went up, many projects were going on. Now, so many of them have been cancelled. Buildings like the Burj Khalifa don’t make a whole lot of sense [in themselves], economically, but other factors such as increasing land values around the building make it practical,” he added. Tomich also talked about initial tests and research that went into designing the Burj Khalifa
“The building at first was an initial height of 515 meters, as the client specified, but through testing [the prototype model] in the wind tunnel, it ended up some 300 meters taller,” he said.
Making a building to withstand the wind was also another challenge faced in the design process; while the building hardly sways any considerable distance even in an extremely high wind, Tomich pointed out that it is the acceleration of the building’s movement that can make it uncomfortable for the occupants. “The governing magnitude of the wind is much greater than that of an earthquake,” he said. “The torsion [of the swaying Burj Khalifa] is the biggest discomfort for the people in the tower. When we tested the building in the wind tunnel, it actually performed better as a taller and more developed building,” he added.
He also talked about challenges faced when building the Burj Khalifa, including having to pump high density concrete 600 meters in the sky, as well as their cladding contractor going bankrupt well into the Burj Khalifas
construction. “We had to find a white knight to take that poisoned chalice,” he joked, adding that a replacement contractor was found to complete the work from one of the original tenders.
Eric Tomich began his career working in the San Francisco office of SOM, later moving to the London branch. He has worked on many of SOM’s international projects in the UK, Russia, France, Bahrain, and the USA. He is currently associate director of SOM and the functioning managing director of SOM’s Dubai branch.
The lecture was held in cooperation with CAAD, which regularly features lectures from professionals and experts across the world involved in various different areas of design.