What Will Happen As Our Skyscrapers Get Lighter And Taller


In the 1890’s Vladimir Shukhov came up with a genius way to make buildings using what he called a Diagrid design. To simplify it, a Diagrid is basically just a structure made up of lots of diamond shapes (or, diagonally intersecting beams for those who like a more technical definition).

There are three major advantages to using a Diagrid design.

First, the structure is so strong that it does not need supporting column’s inside the building. With no need for clumsy columns, you can essentially design whatever crazy open plan space you like inside. Second, the fact that you don’t need columns inside also means that you don’t need half as much steel or concrete to build it. That’s pretty great for the environment and your wallet. And third, the diamond like design lets you build all kinds of weird and wonderful shapes. Fancy building a giant Gerkin shaped building? How about a circle building? Or a planet shaped building? Its all possible with Diagrid design.

But before you get too excited, there is a catch to making tall buildings lighter. The wind makes them Sway.

Designers have come up with some pretty clever ways to reduce the sway of buildings.But if tall buildings are expected to cope with wind and earth quakes without falling over, they kind of have to sway a little. Think of it this way, if you try to bend a solid ruler it will only go so far before it snaps. But if you bend a ruler designed to a flexible, it simply bounces back.

With many cities running out of space, the number of skyscrapers and high-rises is only going to increase. For those unlucky enough to experience a storm or an earthquake in a skyscraper, it is a pretty terrifying thing. (Just take a look at this video to see for yourself > http://tinyurl.com/zekbyvk). But if we can’t get rid of sway all together, how exactly should we deal with it?

Well, in answer to this it seems there are three main things being done already.

First, psychologists and engineers are teaming up to design and test interiors that might trick our senses into thinking the sway isn’t as bad as it seems. This is probably the most ambitious solution. Second, designers are looking for a way to measure the effect of different levels of sway on our happiness and work performance. Its no good having a building that terrifies everyone and makes them too uncomfortable to work. We have to find the point were its just not worth making the building any lighter or taller. And finally, designers are looking for the most convincing way to tell us that the sway is safe and necessary to stop the whole thing collapsing on us. Would you worry about getting your watch wet if you weren’t 100% sure it was water proof? I think not.

As someone passionate about psychology, I am definitely convinced there are plenty of ways we can tweak our thoughts and perceptions to help us live with sway. The question is, is it cheaper to reduce sway, or to change our perception of it. diagrid_clements_page_1.jpg


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