The turn of the 21st century introduced radical new construction ideas and increasingly ambitious engineering goals. Some daring entrepreneurs dream of colonizing Mars, while architects and moguls around the world have pushed the envelope in their building endeavors. For example, several incredible buildings capitalize on the idea that bigger is certainly better. These modern projects feature grand designs and extreme executions.

The Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Located in Dubai’s city center in the United Arab Emirates, the Burj Khalifa officially became the world’s tallest building in 2008. Construction on the skyscraper began in 2004, and workers completed the building’s exterior in just 1,325 days.

The Burj Khalifa (formerly known as the Burj Dubai) was conceived on the notion that the UAE’s economy should center on tourism and international recognition–not just oil. The Burj is situated at the heart of a mixed-use development of more than 30,000 homes, nine hotels, eight acres of parks, 19 residential complexes, a 30-acre manmade lake, and the Dubai mall.

The exterior cladding for the structure was the result of the tireless efforts of 380 engineers and technicians. Workers broke ground on the Burj in 2004 and installed an astonishing 175 panels each day. Most experts estimate that the project’s construction took 22 million man-hours.

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest freestanding structure in the world, with more than 160 floors. It reaches a vertigo-inducing 2,716.5 feet tall. The second tallest building in the world is the Shanghai Tower in China, at 2,073 feet tall.

The Freedom Tower, New York City

Also known as One World Trade Center, The Freedom Tower in New York City isn’t the tallest building in the world, but it is the tallest in the Western Hemisphere. The tower stands at a symbolic 1,776 feet tall. One World Trade Center is a testament to American fortitude and independence; it’s a commemoration of American spirit and the ability to persevere after the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

An emblematic cornerstone for the building was laid on July 4, 2004, but official construction on the tower didn’t begin until 2006, due in large part to disputes about the design, funding, and security of the planned structure. In April 2006, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey finally negotiated a deal with the building’s developer, Larry Silverstein, and construction could proceed. In December, a ceremony at Battery Park kicked off construction, and members of the public were invited to sign a steel beam, which workers welded into the building’s base.

A Focus on Sustainability

The structure’s architecture and design features are a result of the developers’ commitment to sustainability. The structural components of the building are made from recycled materials, and 80 percent of the waste products from construction were subsequently recycled. Building management also plans to feature a rainwater collection system and to leverage offsite hydroelectric and wind power to provide electricity to the facilities.

Sophisticated glass windows allow for maximum daylight exposure, which minimizes the need for interior lighting. The existing lighting has a “smart” feature that automatically adjusts based on the weather conditions, making it one of the most sustainable buildings of its size in the world.

The Freedom Tower’s design, commitment to sustainability, and architectural features will remind Americans of their ability to overcome and persevere for generations to come. The One World Trade Center and complex, including the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, will serve as a testament to those who lost their lives during the terror attacks of September 11, all while standing tall–literally and figuratively–in the face of adversity.

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