How Skyscraper Construction Is Changing

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The basic aspects of skyscraper design have not changed much over the past century. However, there are new innovations in skyscraper construction than promise to revolutionize skyscraper construction and construction in general. Here are three ways skyscraper construction is changing.

Building Material

New techniques in building construction show the many advantages of skyscrapers made of wood. First of all, a structure made of wood is about a quarter of the weight of a corresponding reinforced concrete building, meaning that its foundation can be smaller. Secondly, timber is sustainable, and naturally locks in carbon from the atmosphere. According to certain studies, tall buildings made of wood could have 60 to 75 percent less of a carbon impact than those made of concrete and steel.

Wood holds a lot less weight than steel and concrete. However, cross-laminated timber, or CLT, has been shown to be incredibly strong. CLT is made from timber layers glued together at right angles. It was the result of a research program spurred on by the Austrian government to deal with an oversupply of timber.

Anders Berensson Architects recently unveiled plans for what could be Stockholm’s tallest building, made from CLT. The design is of a 133-meter, 40-story skyscraper covered in numbers. Named Trätoppen, “Treetop” in English, it is designed to perch atop the Parkaden car park, whose façade is covered in numbers as well, designed to help drivers figure out where they are in the building.

Eco-friendly Design

There are many new trends in eco-friendly construction that bode well for future skyscraper construction. The Dynamic Tower in Dubai, designed by architect Dr. David Fischer, combines innovative design elements with sustainability. The skyscraper, when finished, will stand at almost 420 meters tall with 80 rotating floors and 79 wind turbines, each positioned horizontally between each floor. On top will be photovoltaics to increase the energy supply even further.

The architecture firm in charge of the design, Dynamic Architecture, says that the skyscraper will be entirely self-sufficient. It will produce enough excess energy to power several nearby skyscrapers as well.

Another example of innovative eco-friendly design is the Hearst Tower in New York City. This building is the first skyscraper to receive the gold LEED certification. Almost 80 percent of the building’s steel was recycled, as well as many components of the interior. The steel support beams were designed to be diamond-shaped, which allows for structural integrity with less material. Finally, the building collects falling rainwater and directs it to a 14,000-gallon tank in the skyscraper’s basement, which accommodates 50 percent of the building’s water needs by treating and redirecting the water to irrigate plants and power the water sculpture at the building’s entrance.

Elevator Innovations

The fastest elevator in the world is in China’s Shanghai Tower, which moves at eighteen meters per second, and deploys a system controlling the rapidly-changing air pressure for passengers’ comfort. Furthermore, each motor in the elevator has a converter that regenerates electricity as it works, reducing its power consumption by 30 percent, according to designer, Mitsubishi.

One barrier to furthering skyscraper innovation is the limitation posed by traditional elevators. Steel elevator cables can only hold so much weight, and nobody wants to travel to the top of an 800-meter skyscraper on a slow elevator. There are also environmental problems posed by traditional cable elevators. A single steel-rope elevator for twenty-four passengers consumes 130,000 KWh of energy per year and weighs up to 27,000 kilograms and cable elevators take up a lot of space.

One proposed solution comes from the German company ThyssenKrupp, who is developing an elevator called the Multi. The Multi can have multiple elevators moving in the same shaft, and the elevator cars can move horizontally. Additionally, it functions without ropes by using magnets. Switching away from cable elevators can free up the building’s space by as much as 25 percent, which means the building could be put to more efficient use.

In these ways and many others, a new generation of engineers is using creative approaches to solving decades-old problems in skyscraper construction. The future for high-tech, renewable, and innovative construction is bright.

Learn More

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