The tallest towers usually include the highest profile residences, which include more costly penthouses, which attract wealthy inhabitants, which increase overall property value. This is a correlation that exists in cities throughout the world, and as such, skylines are being scraped at record pace and simple engineering methods no longer apply.
What used to be testing for basic wind loads, orientation and shape, has changed completely because of four universally accepted realities: first, because clients are looking for more signature buildings, the architecture of high-rise structures has become much more complex.
Second, structural engineers are now able to apply element analysis much earlier in the design, which leads to saving materials and, ultimately, money. Third, in the wake of the global credit crunch, contractors are taking a closer look at how they use resources and beginning to realise the benefits of sustainable design. Fourth, the higher a building goes, the larger the issue of serviceability—or, comfort of inhabitants—becomes.
Architect & Interiors India speaks to Dr. Andy Davids, director of Hyder Middle East, about the five biggest challenges to engineering high-rise buildings.
1- Holistic Focus
This is about positive, productive collaboration between architects and engineers; and ensuring that collaboration happens as early as possible. Most clients in the region understand the importance of consulting engineers early on high-rise projects but there are still those who don’t. The fact is, says Davids, on high-rise projects, developers often consult with engineers before architects.
2- Construction process
It is absolutely crucial to embed an appropriate and efficient system into construction processes. The speed of development in this region simply does not allow for delays. Contracts of considerable size hinge on whether or not timelines and quality standards can be met.
3- Challenging conventional thinking
Almost all high-rise buildings now are mixed-use developments. These projects are more challenging because while office space should be open plan and have wide expanses, residential space can deal more effectively with columns and hotel spaces needs a bit of both. For example, if a hotel is built near the bottom, it can be fit out while the upper floors are finished. If it’s designed to be on the higher floors it’s akin to saving the most complex piece of the project for last.
4- Choosing the right contractor
At the moment, there are only a handful of contractors in the region that can handle major projects and produce a quality product. According to Dr. Davids, there are several smaller contractors that would like to be involved but they simply cannot handle the workload in the time given. “We’re not using the word ‘cancelled’ yet, but a lot of projects are being suspended in the wake of recent economic events.”
While seismic activity is taken very seriously, the reality is that it’s not the biggest concern in this region. Wind loads, on the other hand, are a bigger concern because a tall, thin structure is quite flexible and can move quite a bit at the top. Particularly with supertalls, wind can be the governing factor in design for the foundation and lateral stability system, so wind engineers need to be involved from the early concept phase. If this happens, it allows them to track the design as it evolves and offer safety and money-saving recommendations.