Construction Process

When you're trying to engineer a giant man-made structure, it can be incredibly helpful to make use of the tricks of nature, just on a soaring, sky-scraping scale. Few structures are a better illustration of this than the Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world despite the lack of tricks much other tall buildings use to stay up.

The Burj Khalifa borrows its most important trick from a flower—a shape that allows the wind to blow by it without creating a vortex that would make the building sway:

Many buildings can naturally dissipate this sway due to friction in their construction, though some mega-structures need artificial dampers to stay up. These dampers, which can often take the form of giant, swinging balls, reduce the amplitude of mechanical vibration.

But the Burj Khalifa isn't most buildings. Thanks to its clever flower-based architecture, no dangerous vortex can form in the first place. Having a building in the desert, free of many of the typhoon problems that would plague buildings in, say, Malaysia, only helps matters more. So as impressive as the Burj Khalifa is when it comes to man-made structure, its origin lies in nature.