Because of their height and increased susceptibility to wind, skyscrapers wobble. Skyscrapers must contend with the wind’s horizontal force and gravity’s vertical pull. The regions of the skyscraper with less wind pressure create suction forces that pull on the structure and cause it to sway as the powerful wind flows around it. It is possible to change the building’s design in several ways to counteract this effect. Some of these solutions may complement the design aesthetically pleasingly, but they are meant to lessen the effects of winds. Think of Shanghai‘s Pudong and the Shanghai Tower.

Why skyscrapers don't sway - Sheet1
Shanghai Tower_©Photographer Gensler

Skyscrapers are built taller and higher than ever before, and the further they are from the earth, the more vulnerable they are to wind-related damage. Due to the height of these structures, strong winds can cause them to move anywhere from a few inches and several feet away from their centre. At 828 meters tall, the Burj Khalifa sways by around 4 to 5 feet owing to wind disturbance. Owing to the excellent construction of these structures, the sway action brought on by strong winds may either be controlled or dampened such that occupants on these upper levels don’t feel the building move.

In addition to vibrations, you would notice the rod sways at the slightest touch towards the very top if you placed one end of the rod on the ground and the other in the air. Concrete structures exhibit the same movement and vibration as structures of greater height. However, these structures are not measured in inches but rather in hundreds of meters. How, therefore, can the architect counteract skyscrapers’ tendency to sway? To help mitigate the impact of strong winds, architects and engineers have created a few ways.

One method for preventing the swaying movement brought on by wind is to insert dampers into these towers. According to the height and thickness of the building, these dampers, also known as tuned mass dampers, typically consist of an iron ball weighing 400 to 700 tonnes. Usually suspended by springs, this d`amper is fastened to the centre of the structure. The Slosh tank, also known as a Slosh damper, is another form of damper that is employed. Rather than using metal, it employs massive amounts of water in a particular tank.

How do these dampers stop the effects of wind on skyscrapers?

Due to the near impossibility of doing so, these dampers don’t truly prevent the buildings from swaying. Indeed, they lessen the swaying sensations the users would have otherwise experienced. These pre-installed dampers, either dangling steel balls or tanks of water, lessen the effect when a skyscraper is hit by strong winds and starts to sway. The dampers are only a smaller distance away from the building than the building itself, and they move in the opposite direction to the swaying building, according to the laws of physics. By functioning as a counterbalance, the building is pulled back to its original position in the middle. It serves to lower the overall height that would have been relocated.

While the skyscraper is already constructed and engineered to experience and resist the effects of heavy winds, it is vital to stress that these dampers do not contribute to the structural integrity of the building. By stabilising the building as much as possible, these dampers only lessen the total effects experienced by the tenants and residents of these top floors. The upper story of the structure contains these dampers, which are concealed there. The single exception to this rule is Taipei 101 in Taiwan, one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, whose dam is accessible to the public as a tourist attraction.

Why skyscrapers don't sway - Sheet2
Taipei 101_©Photographer Flickr RM

Within five seconds, the 508-meter Taipei 101 Tower may move up to 60 cm in either direction. According to Wired magazine, this is extremely Boraginaceae or spacious in Australia. The Taipei 101 engineers incorporated A 662-tonne counter gigantic pendulum to serve as a counterweight. Large concrete blocks are used in several construction projects. It is pushed in the opposite direction from the building’s sway to reduce oscillation.

Tuned mass Damper of Taipei 101_©Photographer Micheal Apel

The large steel sphere, which resembles a big pendulum, swings back and forth to counteract any structure movement. The 1,667-foot-tall building’s vibrations are to be minimised by this engineering marvel. Between the 88th and 92nd floors of the skyscraper, the 660-metric-ton, 18-foot-diameter steel sphere can be seen dangling by eight cables from the higher stories. The tops of the tallest buildings can shift several feet in the wind. Therefore, a tuned mass damper or other similar system is frequently required to ensure structural integrity. Tuned mass dampers are common in skyscrapers to restrict sway. The room-sized device at Taipei 101 has a five-foot range of motion and can move in any direction, reducing sway by 30 to 40 per cent.

Normal swaying is permitted by its steel construction, which protects both the persons within and the structural integrity of the building. While some might find it disturbing to see a large structure sway in the wind, this natural movement is nothing to be alarmed about and indicates the skyscraper is operating as intended. Skyscraper architects must be extremely exact to maintain the towers’ upright position. Skyscrapers are built primarily to endure extreme weather conditions and geological disasters like earthquakes. By allowing for movement, these tall structures can wobble and reduce wind pressure, lowering the chance of a fall.


Hetvi Jadia is an architecture student and a dancer, born and brought up in Surat, Gujarat. She started developing interest in writing since a long time.