Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building. At 828 metres in height, the 160-storey marvel is four times as tall as the Eifel Tower, almost twice as tall as the Empire State building and is the first world-record tower to include residences. Its list of accolades goes on, but it’s the way in which this testament to inventive architecture and cutting-edge engineering handles its raw sewage, that’s causing a stink.
That’s because the gleaming obelisk of modernity isn’t hooked up to a municipal sewage system, and has to rely on a decidedly old-school method to dispose of its human waste: hauling it away in trucks.
This is mind-boggling when you do the math. According to calculations from Gizmodo, if the building were at its full occupancy of 35,000 tenants, this would translate to a whopping seven tons of excrement each day—to say nothing of the wastewater produced from showers, tooth-brushing, toilet-flushing, etc. The end result: an estimated 15 tons of wastewater each day!
A Poopy Predicament
In her book The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper, author Kate Ascher explains that this icky problem began when construction in the booming Arab city progressed far faster than its sewage infrastructure. The best solution they could come up with was to truck it away.
And since the Burj Khalifa is not unique in this respect, a steady stream of sewage trucks are constantly hauling away their crappy cargo out of the city.
Where Does the Poop Go?
So where does all this poop go? It gets delivered to Dubai’s sole wastewater treatment plant that can handle such volume… eventually. In fact, there are so many sewage-filled trucks doing the same thing that the process involves huge delays for the drivers, who have to wait in poop queues for up to 24 hours before they can dump their contents—just so they can drive back to Dubai, refill and do it all over again.
And here’s where things get really nasty. Unwilling to wait for that long, some drivers have reportedly taken matters into their own hands by dumping their trucks’ raw sewage into manholes meant for rainwater. This illegal shortcut has resulted in rivers of raw sewage flowing into the Persian Gulf—which has already resulted in the contamination and closure of some of Dubai’s posh beach resorts.
According to Dubai officials, a solution is coming; plans are already underway to develop a network of wastewater facilities—“at some point in the future”—that won’t require trucks.
Waste management aside, living in the world’s tallest building has some major perks. Read on for the 10 coolest things about living in the Burj Khalifa.