In a world where things are constantly pushed to be bigger and better engineers are at the front line of boundary pushing innovation. Add cheaper and faster to the list of expectations and failures are bound to occur. Failure however is not just the mother of innovation, but also of civil engineering enterprise. Where one fails another learns, and engineers are coming up with solutions that provide possibilities for increasingly incredible structures. As new materials are developed designers utilise them to greater performance and in tackling unprecedented challenges, engineers must refine safety margins. They must also consider greater variables and are held accountable for remarkable successes that would not be possible with a more conservative, less intensive design process.
One such boundary pushing design firm, Thornton Tomasetti, has been involved in engineering six of the ten world’s tallest buildings. Skyscrapers come with many challenges. One such building currently under construction is the thousand metre tall Kingdom tower in Dubai, costing over a billion dollars, and scheduled for completion in 2017. In general the wider the base of a building the taller it can be. This height to base dimension helps in gauging potential for being able to withstand wind resistance and resist overturning forces and seismic loads. However, thanks to innovative designers, remarkable height in relation to base width can now safely be achieved far beyond previous limitations.
The Kingdom Tower’s aspect ratio will exceed 10:1. Engineers did extensive wind tunnel testing to determine that a continuously tapering vertical profile has huge benefits in terms of wind performance. The tapering employed in the Kingdom tower additionally prevents wind vortices from forming and presenting discernible sway.
It is one thing to design a building, but engineering safe building practices go a long way in making the building a reality. Most skyscrapers are constructed using steel and concrete. Getting these materials to such great heights can be a feat on its own. The innovative solution used in construction of The Kingdom tower is the installation of a second set of concrete pumps six hundred metres off the ground. Skyscrapers usually have around two years of work on the foundations before one can start to see the building rise from below the surface of the ground. Civil engineering provided a solution that allowed construction to work both upwards and downwards simultaneously, thus aiding the buildings economics by facilitation expedited construction. Many builders now use this top-down construction technique. For the Kingdom Tower additional solutions were found to maximise stability in relation to the soil type and settling process. Kingdom Tower will have an approximate weight of nine hundred thousand tonnes, but extensive engineering has already allowed for the process.
Going inside, it will have a remarkable elevator and escalator system to get those who use the building around in optimal time, again thanks to engineering expertise. Skyscraper designs that take advantage of tradition, aggressive forward thinking, advanced materials and energy conservation, are the result of intensive civil engineering, something all engineers can be proud of.