Building Skyscrapers

By on January 2, 2013

The design and building of skyscrapers is done with security and habitability in mind. These tall buildings need to be able to support their own weight, and they also need a great degree of resistance to wind, fire, and earthquakes while remaining comfortable and accessible. Design and construction of skyscrapers is challenging because engineering, financial and managerial considerations need to be balanced.


Because of the size and occupancy levels of these tall buildings, structural design is of high importance. Wind tunnels and other tests are done before construction to minimize the chance of structural failure. Wind is of particular concern, as its pressure increases along with the building’s height.

The larger and taller a skyscraper is, the larger its infrastructure should be. Most skyscrapers are built to maximize available floor space, so shear walls and other support systems like steel frames are used. Reinforced concrete is vital in a tall building’s construction; supports are made by pouring concrete around steel rebar, and they’re resistant to tension and compression.

The outside of a skyscraper can be sheathed in a variety of materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, masonry, or glass. Every tall building has an elevator system—it’s not feasible to expect hundreds of people to use the stairs. Elevators aren’t just for convenience; they’re an integral part of the building’s structure. Their shafts consume a lot of space, and structural engineers must strike a delicate balance between efficient use of space and transportation needs.

Every skyscraper’s design is unique, and because of that their models undergo extensive testing in laboratories. Each construction is different, but follows a few general steps:

  • A properly-located, clear and stable piece of land is found.
  • The soil is dug down to the bedrock for support; it could be two hundred feet deep or even more.
  • Footings are placed at the bottom of that hole (usually on bedrock).
  • Concrete is typically poured
  • Vertical supports are built and placed with cranes
  • Horizontal girders are placed and secured
  • Outside walls are built
  • The finishing work is done

Since engineers figured out that small plots of land could be used to their fullest potential by stacking one floor on top of another, buildings have been getting taller and taller. As building heights grow, construction materials and methods change, and those buildings become more efficient. Skyscrapers are a fixture in all of the world’s largest cities, and they’re likely to evolve even more as construction methods do.

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This guest post was written and contributed by Crispin Jones on behalf of Westermans International: suppliers of industrial welding equipment including welding rotators and seam welding machines. Find out more here or read more from Westermans here.

Photo: 4nitsirk

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