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Fri, Feb 02, 2007 - Page 10 News List

World's tallest skyscraper delayed by at least a year

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Burj Dubai, the world's tallest skyscraper, is facing construction delays of at least a year after a leading contractor on the project went bankrupt, leaving the tower without any external walls.

Work that should have begun in the first quarter of last year won't start until April at the earliest following the collapse of Switzerland-based Schmidlin Ltd Facade Technology, said George Efstathiou, a partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, which designed the tower in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Delays to the US$900 million, 160-storey skyscraper are a setback to Dubai's plans to create a 202-hectare district featuring hotels, offices, apartments and the world's biggest shopping mall as it seeks to become the Middle East's No. 1 tourist hub. While the tower's internal structures have already passed the 100th storey, the lack of a facade means work on fitting out the building can't begin.

"It's very unusual for a tower to be this tall without cladding," Efstathiou said yesterday in an interview on the sidelines of the "Building Tall" construction conference in Dubai.

"But we have a new contractor on board and they have a local partner and a scheme to get us back on track," he said.

The facade for the Burj Dubai, comprising thousands of metal panels, will now be provided by Hong Kong-based Far East Aluminium Group, Efstathiou said.

"The cladding is the enclosure of a building, so any interior work that needs dry conditions cannot be completed if it's not in place," said Wolfgang Rudolph, US general manager of Permasteelisa SpA's Josef Gartner unit, one of the world's largest producers of so-called curtain walling.

Schmidlin Ltd Facade Technology, based in Aesch, Switzerland, filed for bankruptcy on Feb. 22 last year. The company said at the time that the high-risk and technologically-challenging nature of its work had led to spiraling costs, leaving it "massively in the red" since 2003.

The world's tallest building is currently the Taipei 101 tower, measuring 509m, excluding masts, and with 101 stories, according to the Emporis Buildings architectural statistics database. Built in 2004, Taipei 101 overtook the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Chicago's Sears Tower, built in 1974, ranks as the third tallest building.

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