By Max Shafer

Building materials and techniques continue to improve with advances in engineering and evolving design sensibilities. With that said, what is effective and stylish for a typical two-story structure may not apply to skyscrapers and other high-rise structures, which must work with some special considerations. For example, high-rises must adhere to a more complex set of safety codes, and they cover a vast amount of square footage, which will have residual implications in terms of long-term sustainability.

To help navigate these waters, contractors, architects, and design professionals can consider any of the following innovative materials and techniques that can help in the construction of vertical buildings.

1. Tilt Up Framing

When constructing a vertical building, it can be challenging to keep materials proximate to the build site, as there is not enough horizontal sprawl to accommodate the vertical square footage of the structure. This is a particular issue for framing, as precast panels often have to be transported on an as-need basis due to the on-site shortage of storage.

To avoid this dilemma, contractors can use an innovative tilt wall construction process. Rather than hauling precast panels to the job site, contractors can pour the panels on the construction floor and use a crane to hoist them once set. For those concerned that tilt-up walls may not provide the stability that precast steel beams offer, consider that most contemporary tilt-up panels are composed of a combination of concrete, steel reinforcement, insulation, air barriers, vapor barriers, and furring strips, guaranteeing that the building is made of the most durable, disaster-proof material available.

2. Aluminum Facade

Most tall buildings have traditionally been fabricated from some type of steel. While steel is undoubtedly tough, advances in engineering have discovered that its weight becomes an issue in the event of structural breaches.

Therefore, lightweight alternatives are readily being explored, with aluminum being one of the most exciting options in this realm. Among the benefits of using aluminum for tall buildings include:

  • An easy extrusion process that makes it possible to obtain any type of shape or profile to meet the specifications of a wide range of facades, ensuring performance and optional aesthetics
  • Outstanding mechanical performance that reacts well to stress, either from the weight of the subjects entering the structure or from exterior stresses such as thermal fluctuations, heavy winds, or earthquakes
  • An ability to mitigate internal and external exchanges, helping ensure the comfort of internal occupants in the face of a wide range of exterior conditions

3. Architectural Shading

Modern construction techniques look for ways to leverage the benefits of natural sunlight. While skyscrapers definitely try to capitalize on this trend, the sun glaring down on dozens of south-facing windows all day long can create some comfort and functionality issues within the building.

Therefore, modern skyscrapers are using innovative sun control devices to help mitigate these concerns. While architectural shading still allows the flow of natural sunlight into the building, it can provide a buffer to reduce glare and help keep air conditioning costs from spiraling out of control during the warmer seasons of the year.

4. Carbon-Fiber Hoisting

When building on a skyscraper’s upper floors, materials often have to be transported via lift or elevator. The issue with this process is that most single-shaft elevators are limited to a height of 500 meters before the weight of the steel hoisting ropes becomes untenable and makes a transfer necessary, causing the transportation of materials to be a seriously time-consuming process.

As a result, the revolutionary KONE UltraRope was designed to effectively double the distance (1,000 meters) that materials can be hoisted during high-rise construction. Comprised of a carbon-fiber core and epoxy-based high-friction coating, KONE UltraRope is extremely light, reducing the energy and machine room space required for materials transport. These smaller dimensions, combined with the efficient design of the rope itself, allow materials to continue to be lifted after older hoisting methods have bogged down.

5. Elite Insulative Features

In addition to the aforementioned sun shading and icf construction used for tilt-up framing, engineers continue to search for ways to better insulate their high-rise buildings. Some ways that tall buildings are adding insulative features to help energy consumption include:

  • Installing smart glass windows to leverage translucent and transparent properties depending on the exterior temperature and interior needs
  • Laying radiant floor heating beneath hard flooring options to reduce the reliance on electric heating methods during the colder months
  • Hanging ceiling clouds that absorb noise transfer to allow for more open spaces on each floor, optimizing light and HVAC use in the absence of constricting barriers

The Most Innovative Techniques and Materials for Tall Buildings

Constructing a skyscraper or high-rise requires a different set of considerations than the construction of a standard building. More stringent safety standards, greater consumption of materials, and ongoing sustainability concerns are just a few of the factors that engineers and architects must keep in mind when working with tall buildings. By considering the advantages of tilt-up framing, aluminum facades, architectural shading, carbon-fiber hoisting, and elite insulative features, construction professionals are assured of working with the most innovative techniques and materials for the construction of tall buildings.


Max Shafer is a contributor to the Innovative Building Materials blog. He is a content writer for the construction and home improvement industries with an interest in landscaping, outdoor remodeling, and interior design. Max is focused on educating homeowners, contractors, and architects on innovative materials and methods of construction that increase property value, improve sustainability, and create a warm and welcoming ambiance.

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