Discussing height limits of skyscrapers

Is there a limit to the height of buildings?

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, a group interested in and focused on the phenomenon of skyscrapers, recently asked a group of leading skyscraper architects and designers about some of the limitations of tall buildings. They wondered, “What do you think is the single biggest limiting factor that would prevent humanity creating a mile-high tower or higher?” The responses are compiled in this video, and tend to focus on the pragmatic technicalities of dealing with funding and the real estate market or the lack of natural light in wide-based buildings.

“The predominant problem is in the elevator and transportation system,” says Adrian Smith, the architect behind the current tallest building in the world and the one that will soon outrank it, the kilometer-tall Kingdom Tower in Jeddah…

One idea for a new system would be buildings with hollowed bases. Think of the Eiffel Tower, says Tim Johnson. He’s chairman at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat and a partner at the architecture firm NBBJ, and he says any really, really tall building would have to be like a supersized version of the Parisian icon, otherwise the lower floors required to support the gradually narrowing structure would be way too big to even fill up.

For a Middle East-based client he’s not allowed to identify, Johnson worked on a project back in the late 2000s designing a building that would have been a mile-and-a-half tall, with 500 stories. Somewhat of a theoretical practice, the design team identified between 8 and 10 inventions that would have had to take place to build a building that tall. Not innovations, Johnson says, but inventions, as in completely new technologies and materials. “One of the client’s requirements was to push human ingenuity,” he says. Consider them pushed.

So perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright wasn’t so crazy with his idea of a mile high building.

I would raise other questions:

1. Who has the funds/resources they want to devote to building such an edifice? Presumably someone might want to make a name for themselves.

2. Would anyone want to work or live at such a height? If not, what do you do with the building besides show off your accomplishment and perhaps hide television and other technological equipment?

3. Would it be “worth it” in the long run?

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