The Future of Tall Building Technology

William Baker
Partner
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, Chicago

Since their earliest form, tall buildings have stood as technological marvels, reflecting the latest advancements in materials, methodologies, and tools. The Home Insurance Building, designed by William Le Baron Jenney in 1884, was guided by new innovations in structures and vertical transportation to reach unprecedented 10-story heights to become the world's first skyscraper. These two technologies continue to be the leading drivers of tall buildings today, though the continuous interest in constructing taller and taller buildings in various climates and locations throughout the world has led to the ongoing development of new technologies, specialties, and social considerations that have the potential to transform the buildings of the future.

Increasingly sophisticated optimization tools, software, physical testing capabilities, and building materials are advancing and refining design processes and practices. Evolving methods for assessing the sustainability and performance of a building; its impact and integration with the local urban context; and the role it has on livability, quality of life, and the well-being of its occupants work together to inform a building's design. In addition to operational energy concerns and a focus on high performance design, the role of embodied carbon is beginning to attract the critical level of attention that it deserves.

This presentation explores how these methods and other emerging trends and technologies will continue to redefine tall and super-tall buildings, including their shape, organization, and sustainability.