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Design details of Burj Khalifa base jump platform

Structure at top of world's tallest building used for world record

NEWS, Design, Base jump, Burj khalifa, World record, WSP Engineers

The design details of a platform which enabled two base jumpers to plunge 828m to earth from the pinnacle of the Burj Khalifa have been revealed.

A 1m by 3m platform designed by engineers WSP and installed by rope access specialists Megarme enabled Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet to undertaken their world record breaking leap.

The structure at the top of the world’s tallest building – first revealed online at www.DesignMena.com - took a total of three days to complete, after developers Emaar approached WSP to undertake its design.

WSP engineer Bethel Teferra remembered when she first heard of the plans.

“There was a document marked ‘Top Secret, Project Highly Confidential’,” she said. “I found out it was a base jump from the top of the Burj Kalfia and was stunned. I thought it was a joke.”

Structural engineer Andy Veall – who admits being uncomfortable with heights but went onto the platform to inspect it – lead the design team.

“The design of a small platform such as the one required is actually quite easy,” he said. “But putting one at the top of the Burj Khalifa obviously presented some challenges.”

The first issue the team faced was how to get the platform in place and the initial idea was to constructed it on the ground and then lower it into place from a helicopter.

Meetings with the UAE military were arranged – but problems were quickly encountered. Lack of visibility for the pilot and the downdraft from rotor blades causing the platform to possibly spin ruled out an aerial solution.

Instead components were designed to be carried up onto the platform and installed by hand, with the hinged structure itself gradually folding outwards.

The platform was above the entrance to the Armani Hotel so a major safety issue was preventing objects from falling. Nuts and bolts were welded to the structure or physically attached to the clothing or belts of the Megarme specialists.

“We are very familiar with the Burj Khalifa said Daniel Eede of Megarme. “We took HH Crown Prince Sheik Hamdan up to the top to celebrate the Expo award and that was tense – in fact I took my passport on the job.

“The challenge here was deadlines – but also doing the jump was something we [the installation team] had all dreamed of.”

Members of Megarame escorted the jumpers too the platform and acted as an emergency rescue team.

Eede had the families of the jumpers with him when he watched the leap.

“It was great to see the excitement on the faces of everyone. There was so much elation. Especially the jumper’s parents – after all it there flesh and blood that have just leapt off the world’s tallest building.”

Veall was also at the bottom of the Burj Khalifa when the pair landed safely and when they went over and high-fived him for his design success.

Fugen said: “This was the jump of a lifetime and an achievement of three years of hard training. We like to fly and we like to have fun. People talk about being scared but if you scare yourself it’s no fun.”

Reffet added: “This was a dream come true.”

Tom Bower is managing director of WSP and said the whole company was behind the project.

“It raises our profile in a global business,” he said. 

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Construction Week - Issue 764
May 31, 2020