Ever wondered how skyscrapers stay up? The Chengdu greenland tower has its own exoskeleton

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Ever wondered how skyscrapers stay up? The Chengdu greenland tower has its own exoskeleton

When the Chengdu Greenland Tower is completed in 2018, it will measure just over 467 metres and be the fourth tallest building in China. But the feat of engineering on this breathtaking skyscraper is not just its foundation or internal structure, an exoskeleton makes this tower architecturally possible.

Often an architect’s greatest challenge is delivering a beautiful structure at the required height that is within budget for developers.

The Chengdu Tower’s exoskeleton solves this problem by keeping project costs low while still creating a visually-appealing building. The exoskeleton is a major weight-bearing factor in the final structure, and it is completely outside the building.

The exoskeleton forms an enormous ‘X’ – or two triangles – across the outer surface of the building to support and distribute weight, and to resist the pressure of elements faced by skyscrapers of Chengdu Tower’s height. Using materials like concrete and steel that have become lighter and stronger in recent years helps.

“It’s an efficient structural system because you use the entire width of the building to resist wind,” said Dennis Poon, lead structural engineer on the Tower’s design.

While designers drawing up structural plans for Chengdu Tower relied heavily on computers to expedite the process and increase accuracy, the exoskeleton is a basic application of geometry. The structural integrity of the building relies on the distribution of weight from each added floor of the skyscraper to the support beams, across the exoskeleton, and eventually down to the building’s foundation.

If anything, the incredible tech innovations supporting architecture and construction today make it easier to appreciate buildings designed before the days of computers, like the Empire State Building or even the Taj Mahal.

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