Construction of the Burj Khalifa began in 2004, with the exterior completed five years later in 2009. The primary structure is reinforced concrete. The building was opened in 2010 as part of a new development called Downtown Dubai. It is designed to be the centrepiece of large-scale, mixed-use development. The decision to construct the building is reportedly based on the government's decision to diversify from an oil-based economy, and for Dubai to gain international recognition. The building was originally named Burj Dubai but was renamed in honour of the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan; Abu Dhabi and the UAE government lent Dubai money to pay its debts. The building broke numerous height records, including its designation as the tallest tower in the world.
Burj Khalifa was designed by Adrian Smith, then of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), whose firm designed the Willis Tower and One World Trade Center. Hyder Consulting was chosen to be the supervising engineer with NORR Group Consultants International Limited chosen to supervise the architecture of the project. The design is derived from the Islamic architecture of the region, such as in the Great Mosque of Samarra. The Y-shaped tripartite floor geometry is designed to optimize residential and hotel space. A buttressed central core and wings are used to support the height of the building. Although this design was derived from Tower Palace III, the Burj Khalifa’s central core houses all vertical transportation with the exception of egress stairs within each of the wings. The structure also features a cladding system which is designed to withstand Dubai's hot summer temperatures. It contains a total of 57 elevators and 8 escalators.
Critical reception to Burj Khalifa has been generally positive, and the building has received many awards. However, labour issues during construction were controversial, since the building was built primarily by migrant workers from South Asia with several allegations of mistreatment. Poor working conditions were common, a consequence of the lack of minimum wage laws in the United Arab Emirates. Several instances of suicides have been reported, which is not uncommon for migrant construction workers in Dubai despite safety precautions in place.