So you think your windows are hard to keep clean?

WHAT is the trouble with building the world's tallest skyscraper? Someone's got to clean its 24,000 windows.

An Australian company has been charged with keeping polished the reflective glass of the Burj Dubai tower that rises almost a kilometre from the Arabian desert.

The rulers of Dubai last night attempted to convince the world that their financial troubles have been overstated with a lavish inauguration for the 818-metre ''superscraper''. It dwarfs both the world's previous tallest buildings, the 508-metre-tall tower 101 in Taipei, and the 629-metre KVLY-TV mast in North Dakota.

An Emirati woman and her children walk past Burj Dubai, the world's tallest tower.
An Emirati woman and her children walk past Burj Dubai, the world's tallest tower. Photo: AFP

Among those celebrating were representatives from Melbourne-based company Cox Gomyl, which designed and built an $8 million window washing system, now fixed to the outside of the Burj Dubai.

The machinery, made in Airport West, will transport a team of cleaners, harnessed to metal cages, to all 160 storeys. Unmanned machines will clean its 27 additional tiers and a glass spire.

General manager Dale Harding said the company had also tendered to provide the 36 cleaners needed to battle against the hot desert sun, high winds and routine sand storms.

''It takes about three months to clean the entire building, so the machines will be operating in cycles the vast majority of the year,'' he said.

The machines cover about 40 storeys each and travel along tracks fixed to the facade. When not in use, they are hidden at various heights behind glass panels.

While the technology is cutting edge, the window washers - most likely migrant workers from the Indian subcontinent - will use the traditional ''squeegee and soapy water''.

''It's a challenging environment to work in, you're out on your own, the wind is howling by, the heat is bouncing off the glass and on the lower levels there is sand as well.''

The cleaners will carry electrolyte packs and wear specialised clothing resembling moon suits, working only in shade.

Cox Gomyl is one of several Australian connections to the Burj Dubai. Melbourne and Sydney-based experts from Hyder Consulting reviewed and approved the tower's design on behalf of the Government of Dubai. The company also supervised construction.

''We are in fact responsible for the building,'' property director Jim Forbes said. ''To be involved with the tallest building in the world was a real thrill.''

Mr Forbes said Dubai's wind and frequent sand blasts presented a design challenge combated by changing the tower's shape as it ascends to ''confuse the wind and resist any vibrations''.

Setting aside fears that the emirate is on the brink of defaulting on its debt, Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, was last night expected to make a triumphal ascent of the $1 billion tower which has swimming pools on floors 43 and 76 and plans for the world's highest mosque on the 158th floor.

But with many investors in the building's 1044 apartments already facing losses after property prices in Dubai slumped, the Burj's owners are struggling to present their architectural achievement as anything but a pyrrhic victory. The offices and most of the flats are still an estimated two months from completion.

The fountain outside cost a reported $A238.5 million and the 160-room hotel was designed by fashion designer Giorgio Armani and boasts a nightclub, two restaurants and a spa.

Meanwhile labourers on the project, including many immigrants from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, earned low wages. Skilled carpenters took home just $A7.80 a day and labourers, $A5.10.

Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties, the state-owned developer, said Burj Dubai was ''another demonstration of Dubai's ability to achieve what few people thought possible''.

With GUARDIAN

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