What are the technical limitations for building skyscrapers today (2016) and how high can we go with today’s technology ?

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What are the technical limitations for building skyscrapers today (2016) and how high can we go with today’s technology ?
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With today’s technology we can build structure with upto height 1-1.5 mile. But if we made some changes to today’s technology and done something innovative, then it can be changed dramatically and we can build to the the height that we would have never imagined. If we change the technology and do something innovative from what we have today then practically we can build a building which is of the equal height of the Mount Everest and this means that a building even taller than the Mount Everest is practically possible. We said taller than the Mount Everest as buildings are just 15% dense as compared to density of the Everest so we have almost 85% more “Buffer” to go taller as we have not yet reached the capacity of earth to hold something upright.

The reason behind limiting the building at 1 mile or 1.5 mile with today’s technology are as follows :


Upto today ,  we have not poured concrete above 600m from the ground. So in order to build something higher we will have to think of something much more advance. Concrete pumps more powerful than today. For now Jeddah Tower is planned of to be 1000m height and we will be pumping concrete higher than ever, whereas the same building was conceptualized for 1600 m tall but then it was reduced to 1000 m due to some financial issues. This means that we have something planned for pumping the concrete to that extent.


Considering all other challenges, this is the most technical difficulty that we will have to overcome if we want to build something higher. The elevators needs to be not just fast, but extremely fast to serve the top floors. Just assume.. would you like to travel in an elevator for 10 minutes if you have a commute time to work for 10 mins ? Things get quit crazy as well as time consuming so we should must have some innovations for elevators. Using today’s system of the elevators with ultra light cables we are unable to go any taller than a mile or 1.5 miles because the self weight of the cable itself will be enormous. We have to think about something like electromagnetic elevators just like MAGLEV trains. Boom and it rushes up. Acceleration shouldn’t be high, but velocity can be high. So.. with better  elevator systems we can go taller, but with today’s technology 1.5 mile might be enough. 


Winl also is a big factor causing discomfort. Wind generally causes motions in the buildings which may cause a person on the higher floors to some sort of discomfort or sickness. Yeh…we know how to make it comfortable. We know that if we reduce the wind induced accelerations we can easily minimize the effect of motions. Because, As a human body we have no problem with the velocity, but we have problems with the accelerations. So if we reduced the acceleration then we can easily remove this discomfort. And we have lots options to reduce it like :

Tuned mass dampers

Attaching a giant mass at the top of the building which has a period equal to the primary period of the building (i.e. designed period) and it will resists the motion of the building by generating an inertial force opposite to the motion of the building caused due to wind. In Taipei 101 the mass is 0.24% of mass of the building. this is approx 670 tonnes or so. Huge chunk of the mass. To take this to the top in pieces itself was a challenge. Now, imagine lifting the pieces 1.5 mile above the ground, quit difficult ha..!!. It will take a long time for all the pieces to reach the top. So again this limits us until we have the  better cranes. Faster and stable ones.

Dissipation of wind energy

In short, This is a technique of confusing the wind so that we can reduce the forces (caused due to effects of wind on the structure). In this the cross section  of the building is tweaked in such a way that it will hardly generates any cross wind motions. As simple as that  .


Once we are able to design the building for wind we will don’t have to worry so much about the earthquakes in very tall buildings, because generally in such cases wind forces will govern more than anything else. And also in case of earthquake such tall skyscrapers will behave in a much more predictable manner than the shorter buildings.. Thus, we can design these buildings for earthquakes much more efficiently.

So in short, if we overcome the current technological limitations, we can go as high as we want. But if bound us with it then we are afraid we are reaching our limits. If we do something innovative then maybe we can build that one too.


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Udayram Patil

Udayram Patil

Udayram Patil is an enthusiastic graduate civil engineer with an eye for innovative & technical writing.His wish is to combine his knowledge and experience about his field, to deliver the best practical cum accurate information to his audience.
Udayram Patil


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