Veteran elevator consultant James W. Fortune says he used to hear about a supertall tower like the Burj Dubai once every five years. These days, he hears about one a month. “And one out of 10 is built,” he adds.


When Fortune started working on the vertical transportation system for the supertower in Dubai, he was president and CEO of Lerch Bates & Associates, Littleton, Colo. He subsequently retired—for two weeks—and hung out a sign in Galveston, Texas. “All I do is design elevators for mega-high-rises,” says the president of Fortune Elevator Consultants.

For the Burj Dubai, Fortune designed the vertical transportation coming and going. After he left Lerch Bates, the firm hired him to come back and do a peer review on his own design.

The system for the 162-story Burj Dubai is more complicated than for previous supertall buildings because the others are office towers. The burj—Arabic for “tower”—is mainly residential but multi-use (see p. 28), which means multiple-type elevators, multiple sky lobbies, different entry levels and separated security are needed to suit those uses.

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    Burj Dubai Steel Spire Sprouts

    Putting the elevator puzzle together was a huge effort, says SOM. To save space, the elevator pits for the upper runs stack above elevator machine rooms in mechanical levels.

    Otis Elevator Co., Bloomington, Ind., is installing the elevators. The $32-million contract is a record size, says Fortune.

    Height for any one elevator run is limited to 525 meters because of cable crowding and weight, says Fortune. The elevator code requires a 10:1 safety factor, which means  any one hoist cable must be able to support the total load.

    Even the separate lift for emergencies could not have a full run. The cab goes straight to level 134. To go higher, emergency responders will have to transfer to another cab.