As the skyline of almost all the major metropolitans around the globe is starting to break through the clouds, have you ever wondered about the existence of the engineering marvels- the skyscrapers, that this skyline is composed of?

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New York Skyline_©David Skyrius

Skyscrapers are undoubtedly a product of metropolitan areas’ ever-increasing land needs! However, what most people are unaware of, is that these structures have a direct impact on our lives as well as the surrounding environment. The following are some fascinating facts about skyscrapers that you may not be aware of:

1. Skyscrapers have a Height Limit!

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest structure at 830 meters; Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia (under construction) is 1000 meters high; Tokyo city is planning to construct a 1,700-meter-tall tower soon. 

So, is there a limit to the height of buildings we can build? Of course, there is!

A building’s foundation must be broad enough to sustain its height. Due to the earth’s curvature, the building’s base and hence the rise will be limited. But we are still far from that limit. We can construct “higher than the tallest mountain” in the world, says a Burj Khalifa engineer. We can create them; if we overcome difficulties like materials, structure, and climate. 

The X-Seed 4000 (shown in the image above) is the highest building we can construct with present technology. The X-Seed 4000 is a proposed 4 km tall skyscraper with a 6 km foundation. Its mountain-shaped construction could shelter up to a million people. The issue with the construction of this building is not its technology but its $1.4 trillion construction cost.

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X-Seed 4000_©si.imgur.com

2. They Sway in the Wind!

Yes! Most of the skyscrapers; are designed to sway in the wind. For example, the Chicago Willis Tower is known to sway about 3 feet while the winds gush. Or talk about the Burj Khalifa! According to architect George Efstathiou, it was tuned (like an instrument) to swing gently enough that your middle ear does not pick it up. The interesting fact is that it is not noticeable to the people living on the higher floors.

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Willis Tower_©Trace Hudson

3. Skyscrapers Affect Weather!

Skyscrapers alter the local wind patterns. A perfect example of a built environment affecting a natural one! The impacts vary depending on whether the wind is at the building’s base, around it, or above it. Tall buildings produce wind tunnels that blow fiercely at ground level. Meanwhile, the structure works as a barrier, allowing polluted air to escape to other sites or settle in the surrounding area. In this instance, pollution due to skyscrapers may be detrimental to city dwellers.

The thermal effect, however, is the most intriguing. Building materials like concrete and brick absorb sun energy well. During the day, the massive building absorbs the sun’s heat. The heat from the skyscrapers drains into the surrounding air at night, keeping the city warm. It’s repeated when the sun comes out, keeping the city tad warmer than its outlying areas.

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Skyscrapers_©guillaume-meurice

4. Time Travels Faster Up there!

Yes, living on top of a skyscraper accelerates aging! It is because of the concept of gravitational time dilation. As we move away from earth, time speeds up. In an experiment in the 1970s, it was determined; that time moves one picosecond quicker at 30 meters (100 feet) than at sea level. 

So, what does this mean? In other words, someone living in a skyscraper will age quicker than someone living on the ground. Undoubtedly, the age gap between them will be less. But, as we know, Skyscrapers could be almost as high as a mountain, so as they rise, the age disparity widens.

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©oleg-magni

5. Skyscrapers May Cause Earthquakes!

It is a fact; that tremors in the earth aren’t just triggered by geological occurrences like tectonic shifts, but also by large-scale human activity like mining or nuclear blasts. However, an earthquake, induced by a skyscraper is rare!

Taipei 101 is a 508m tall skyscraper completed in 2003 in a geologically peaceful and earthquake-free zone. However, during construction, the number of micro-earthquakes increased. Then in 2004, a 3.8 magnitude quake hit the skyscraper. A 3.2 magnitude quake struck the same spot beneath the structure a few months later. Undoubtedly, heavy materials were employed to construct Taipei 101 earthquake-proof, and this 700,000-ton bulk exerts significant strain on the Earth’s crust. After the building was complete, the pressure expanded and caused the earthquake.

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Taipei 101_©Jimmy Liao

6. Space Skyscrapers Might be a Thing!

A floating skyscraper might be erected right in the skies in the Future! While it may seem a Utopian idea, NASA might already be working to divert asteroids to revolve around the earth! The Clouds Architecture office has already planned the skyscraper designed to hang from an asteroid via high-tension wires. It would build from modules that might be added throughout time. The top would have solar panels and receive water straight from the clouds. Moreover, due to the earth’s curvature, the top levels of the skyscraper would get 40 minutes more sunshine than the bottom floors.

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Analemma Tower_©The Cloud Architecture

7. Two Sunsets in a Day!

As the skyscrapers are achieving new heights by the year, experiencing two sunsets in a day might just become normal! Buildings like Burj Khalifa are so tall that one can see the sunset from the base of the Burj Khalifa, then take the elevator to the top and watch it again. Due to the height, the two sunsets occur around three minutes apart, and with the elevator taking less than a minute and a half to reach the top, there is plenty of time for a quick head over to watch two sunsets in a row.

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Sunset near Burj Khalifa_©alex-azabache

8. A Melting Tower or an Air Conditioner!

The skyscrapers can turn into a microwave or even an air conditioner!

The Walkie Talkie skyscraper in London features a curved, concave surface on one side, with panes that focus light into a narrow beam. In 2013, a car ended up with entirely melted components because of parking adjacent to the Walkie Talkie. Indeed, a journalist was able to cook an egg beneath the building’s “heat ray.” Fortunately, the tower was retrofitted in 2014 with features that assist in diffusing the reflected light, allowing people to pass under the Walkie-Talkie in peace. 

Also, we are aware that as we reach higher altitudes, the temperature decreases, as is the case with a skyscraper. The top of Burj Khalifa may have temperatures up to 15 degrees lower than at the base.

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Walkie Talkie Tower London_ ©35mmMan Flickr

9. Less Construction Time!

More floor area and less construction time do not seem like a match, but a 57-story building was completed in China in three weeks. A company in China developed Mini Sky City in under 19 days. The 200m tall structure utilizes a modular construction approach. Because 90% of the skyscraper was prefabricated at a factory before construction, workers could install three stories each day.

But this was not the company’s first record-breaking project. Using the same method, it erected a 30-story structure in 2011 within 15 days. Despite this, the building’s quality assurance is such that it can withstand an earthquake of 9.0 magnitude. The same company’s founder also aims to construct a 220-story skyscraper named Sky City, which would be higher than the Burj Khalifa and would take them seven months to complete!

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Modular Construction_©www.autodesk.com

10. The World’s ________ Skyscrapers!

  • First: Home Insurance Building, Chicago 

According to a story, architect William Le Baron Jenney was inspired to develop the first skyscraper steel skeleton when his wife discovered that a small birdcage could take the load of heavy books! 

  • Tallest: Burj Khalifa, Dubai

With almost 830 m in height, the skyscraper is the tallest building on earth, surpassing Taipei 101. The Burj Khalifa, located in Dubai, UAE, also has the world’s highest inhabited floor, highest outdoor observation decks, and the most stories (163).

  • Thinnest: Steinway Tower

Completed in 2021, the Steinway Tower holds the record of the world’s most slender tower with a ratio of around 1:24!

Steinway Tower_©Hayes Davidson
Author

A firm believer of the fact that happy, thriving, and sustainable places are all the same, Reshika strives to build environments that promote individual well-being. Her work as an architect is driven by the desire to attain spatial and urban contentment, and it is in the intersection between this ideation and pragmatism that she contends her quest.

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