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1. General remarks for tall buildings

2. Load and their effects on tall buildings
 Gravity loads
 Wind effects on Tall Buildings
 Earthquake effects on Tall Buildings
 Other actions
3. Gravity load resisting systems
4. Lateral load resisting systems
5. Approximate methods for preliminary design
6. Special topics related to Tall Buildings

Reference: Taranath, Bungale S.; Steel, Concrete and Composite

Design of Tall Buildings, 2nd Edition, McGraw-Hill, 1998

1. Introduction
2. Why build Tall Buildings?
3. Arguments against Tall Buildings
4. Geographical distribution of high-rise buildings
5. Basic structural concept
6. General design considerations
1. Introduction

What is a tall building?

We note that, there is no absolute definition of what constitutes a “tall building”. It is a

building that exhibits some elements of “tallness” in one or more of the following
Height relative to context
It is not just about height, but about the context in which it exists. Thus, whereas a
20-storey building may not be considered a tall building in a high-rise city such as
Hong Kong or Manhattan, New York, in Dar es Salaam this is distinctly taller than
the norm.

Again, a tall building is not just about height but also about proportion. There are
numerous buildings that are not particularly high, but are slender enough to give
the appearance of a tall building, especially against low urban backgrounds.
Conversely, there are numerous big/large footprint buildings that are quite tall but
their size/floor area rules them out as being classed as a tall building.
Tall building Technologies

If a building contains technologies which may be attributed as being a product of “tall”

(e.g., specific vertical transport technologies, structural wind bracing as a product of
height, etc.), then this building can be classed as a tall building.
Number of floors

Although number of floors is a poor indicator of defining a tall building due to the
changing floor to floor height between differing buildings and functions (e.g., office
versus residential usage), a building of perhaps 14 or more stories – or more than
50 meters in height – could perhaps be used as a threshold for considering it a
“tall building”.

Also note, the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) defines
“supertall” as a building over 300 meters (984 feet) in height, and a “megatall” as
a building over 600 meters (1,968 feet) in height.

As of June 2015 there were 91 supertall and 2 megatall buildings fully completed
and occupied globally.
According to the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

A building whose height creates different conditions in the design, construction, and use
than those that exist in common buildings of a certain region and period.

Structural perspective

A tall building is that building, which due to its height, is affected by lateral forces due
to wind or earthquake actions to an extent that they influence and play an important
role in the structural design.
Gravity loads increase linearly with height.
Under wind load, the overturning moment at the
base of a building varies in proportion to the
square of the height of the building,
lateral deflection varies as the fourth power of
the height of the building, other things being

In contrast to vertical load, lateral load effects on

building are quite variable and increase rapidly
with increase in height.
2. Why build Tall Buildings?

Human aspiration to build tall structures

The conception of height has to do with “self-realization,” “self-actualization,” and
“human potential”; and consequently, humans always have admired and built tall
structures since ancient times:
• pyramids in Egypt,
• Mayan Temples in South America,
• the Kutab Minar in India
_pyramids mayan-temples/ /delhitourism/tourist_place/qut
Cultural significance, prestige and economic growth
The ongoing trend for constructing tall buildings around the world reflects the
increasing impact of global competition on the development of the world’s major
These cities compete on the global stage to have the title of tallest building with
which to announce the confidence and global stature of their growing economies.
An iconic tall building enhances the global image of the city. It is likely to put the
city on the world map, thereby signaling and promoting its significant economic
progress and advancement; http://www.burjkhalifa

wiki/Petronas_Towers /wiki/Taipei_101 .ae/en/ wiki/One_World_Trade_
Scarcity of land in urban areas
land prices always have been a prime driver for constructing tall buildings.
In large cities, properties are very expensive, and buildings logically grow upward.
Low land costs clearly keep buildings closer to the ground; tall buildings are not an
attractive option for small towns where land is cheap.

Technological advancements and innovations in structural systems

The evolution of the tall building has led to major advances in engineering and
As today’s technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, architects have an
opportunity to build taller and implement their desire for the latest and utmost
aesthetic expressions of tall buildings.
Developers and architects increasingly are employing new technologies and
aesthetics to boost their reputation, prestige, and enhance their business
Population and migration trends
Among the most pressing issues that have spurred tall building development and
will likely continue, is the exponential increase in urban population worldwide in
conjunction with wealth accumulation.

Increasing demand for business and residential space

Desire for aesthetics in urban settings and concept of city skyline

3. Arguments against Tall Buildings

Many critics lament the loss of our old way of life and consider tall buildings as
oppressive symbols and unnecessary intrusions into the urban fabric lowering the
quality of the city.
The question is whether the benefits of tall buildings outweigh their demerits.

Economic Considerations
Undoubtedly, there are some inherent drawbacks of tall buildings from an economic
point of view.
Construction of these buildings requires an extra cost premium because of their
need for sophisticated foundations, structural systems to carry high wind loads, and
high-tech mechanical, electrical, elevator, and fire-resistant systems.
Tall buildings also suffer from higher operational costs, such as high energy
consumption, elevator maintenance, emergency response preparedness, etc.
Environmental Impact
Tall buildings produce adverse effects on the microclimate, due to wind
funneling and turbulence around them at their base causing inconvenience for
Also, tall buildings cast large shadows, affecting adjacent properties by blocking
Towers are environmentally damaging when they fail to incorporate energy
efficient design solutions in their heating, cooling, and ventilation systems.
They also require a great amount of embodied energy, the energy needed to
construct the building and to produce and transport required materials.

A tall building can create problems, such as overcrowding around it that can
decrease the quality of life.
Tall buildings surely increase demand on transportation and infrastructure.
Likewise, a new tall building will place additional load on the existing power grid,
water supply, and sewer systems
Historic Context
With regard to the built heritage, tall building proposals often are challenging and
problematic because of their inevitable impact on the historic urban fabric.
Insertion of tall buildings into this fabric undoubtedly alters the traditional skyline
of the city.
The impact of high-rise development is critical for the conservation of the built
heritage of cities.

Digital Revolution
Apparently, efficient telecommunication has reduced the importance of the
centrality of the urban core and thereby has increased the viability of less
expensive and convenient suburban sites as venues for conducting business
4. Geographical Distribution of High-Rise Buildings
5. Basic structural concept

The key idea in conceptualization the

structural system for a tall building is to
think of it as a beam cantilevering from
the ground.
The laterally directed force generated either
Building due to wind blowing against the building or
inertia forces
due to the inertia forces induced by ground
shaking, tends both to snap it (shear) and
Building cantilevering push it over (bending).
from ground
Therefore, the building must have a system
to resist shear as well as bending.
In resisting shear forces, the building
must not break by shearing off (a),
and must not strain beyond the limit
of elastic recovery (b).

(a) (b)

The building must not overturn from the

combined forces of gravity and lateral
loads due to wind or seismic effects (a), it
must not break by premature failure of
columns either by crushing or by excessive
tensile forces (b), and its bending
deflection should not exceed the limit of
elastic recovery (c).
(a) (b) (c)
6. General design considerations

From structural perspective, the design of tall buildings essentially involves a

conceptual design, approximate analysis, preliminary design and optimization,
to safely carry gravity and lateral loads.
The main design criteria are - strength, serviceability, stability and human
 The strength is satisfied by appropriate limit states;
 Serviceability is satisfied by drift limits in the range of H/500 to H/1000;
 Stability is satisfied by sufficient factor of safety against buckling and P-Delta
 The human comfort aspects are satisfied by accelerations in the range of 10
to 25 milli-g, where g is acceleration due to gravity.

The aim of the structural engineer is to arrive at suitable structural schemes,

to satisfy these criteria, and assess their structural weights in weight/unit area.
Structure cost per square metre or floor Extra cost for
lateral resistant
system (wind

Columns + Walls

Floor framing

Number of stories

Building weight and cost increase nonlinearly with increasing

height due to lateral loads as depicted below. Efficient structural
and material systems are needed to minimize the weight and cost.
Other factors which govern and need to be considered by the design team include:
 The structural scheme should be in consistence with the functions of the building;
 Selection of the structural system should consider other elements of construction,
e.g. HVAC systems, electrical systems, plumbing systems, etc.
 Construction methods and procedures can influence the costs;
 Cost of formwork (for example in USA, the cost of formwork for concrete structures
is 1/3 the cost of concrete construction). One has to find means of reducing this by
using repetitive formwork and use of prefabricated panels, large size formwork,
flying or gang form;
 The site may also influence the suitable framing system (access, foundation +
 Local conditions may influence the selection of the structural system (labor cost as
compared to material cost);
 The cost of columns and foundations can be reduced by using lightweight materials.
This is achieved by using lightweight aggregates and thin hollow floors. This adds
requirement to check for serviceability limit state of deflection and cracking.