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Frank Anteri Discusses the Evolution of Skyscrapers and Structural Engineering

Nov 18, 2023Nov 18, 2023

Frank Anteri works as a structural engineer specializing in the development of skyscrapers. In the following article, Frank Anteri discusses the evolution of these magnificent buildings, and how they have emerged as the embodiment of human ingenuity, engineering prowess, and artistic vision.

While skyscrapers have seemed to defy the laws of gravity since the 1800s, the powerful tug of the Earth's core clearly has not simply disappeared. So how do these tall towers keep from toppling?

Skyscrapers first appeared during the 1800s when mass iron and steel production made it possible to support the upward growth of buildings without requiring impractically thick walls or an unreasonably wide base. Using concrete to reinforce the load-bearing capacity of the base level and the invention of the elevator were also crucial developments.

Frank Anteri explains how human ingenuity evolved from surviving in caves to building homes high in the sky.

During the 1800s, people began flocking to cities in larger numbers than ever before. This influx placed a significant strain on the square footage of city streets and begged the difficult question of how to accommodate the growing population. As a matter of space-saving practicality, engineers began to look skyward.

Frank Anteri says that, while skyscrapers only first appeared in the nineteenth century, evidence that humans have understood the physical and mathematical principles required to create high-rising buildings dates as far back as the ancient Egyptian pyramids and Mayan temples.

When it came to the challenge of increasing a building's height while limiting its ground-level breadth, structural engineers rose to the occasion, and have continued rising ever since. What enabled them to carry out these feats was the development of mass-produced iron and steel, which provided the strength to allow for a much higher ratio of vertical to horizontal weight-bearing.

In addition to these metals, structural engineers also began using reinforced concrete, which combines the malleability of steel with the stability of concrete to ensure that these buildings have foundations sturdy enough to support their own weight, and then some.

Frank Anteri says that being equipped with these new materials, nineteenth-century engineers were able to avoid relying on the wide lateral frameworks used by the early Egyptians and Mayans, instead channeling the stabilizing weight farther downward over a narrower surface area.

The invention of the elevator was a pivotal step in the development of the skyscraper for multiple reasons. Given the difficulty of moving large or heavy objects up several flights of stairs, elevators offered a practical means of internal transportation. Additionally, elevator shafts began to play an important structural role as a weight-bearing "backbone" within the core of a building.

Frank Anteri says that since skyscrapers first appeared, engineering and technological advancements have made it increasingly possible to consider not only matters of practical stability, but also of a building's aesthetic appeal. Throughout the 1900s, skyscrapers became far more stylized and ornate than the basic rectangular columns created just decades before.

To decrease the density of the building's central core and add exterior designs, many skyscrapers now have an additional weight-bearing exoskeleton. By spreading the stabilizing weight of the structure across a broader surface, exoskeletons have become another reflection of how structural engineering combines form and function in architecture.

Although style is now an influential consideration in the design of a skyscraper, ensuring a floorplan's safety and practicality remain each structural engineer's primary concern.

During the planning process, engineers must account for a number of different factors, including the fixed weight of the building material, the variable weight of objects and occupants inside the building, and the potential weight of snow and ice during the winter months in certain climates.

In addition to balancing various weights, structural engineers must also consider environmental factors such as whether or not the soil quality will permit building directly on top of the land, or if a deeper and more sturdy foundation must first be installed. Frank Anteri explains that as building materials respond differently to changing temperatures, climate type and seasonal shifts must also be accounted for.

If a building site is located in a region prone to specific natural disasters like earthquakes, fires, or high wind conditions, certain lateral reinforcements must be installed to help minimize any structural movements or potential damage caused by such forces.

Frank Anteri explains that even beyond the nature-dependent considerations involved in the design process, structural engineers also have to consider the cost of necessary materials. Given their height and need for strong, high-quality metals in mass quantities, the price of these projects can escalate rather quickly.

In response to such issues, engineers may choose to use a less-conventional structural arrangement. One such example is a diagrid system, which uses less steel than a traditional frame by arranging beams in a diagonal pattern.

As one of the most decisive factors in a skyscraper's creation, the amount of funding available often has a more significant impact on a building's height classification than the physics involved in its construction. In fact, many engineers believe that when it comes to skyscraper height, there's still plenty of room to grow.

Frank Anteri notes that skyscrapers were born of the need to accommodate a growing city population, developments in the production capacity of iron and steel, techniques of concrete reinforcement, and the strategic weight-shifting calculations of structural engineers. With further practical developments, such as the elevator, more attention could be directed toward style, resulting in the wide variety of skyscrapers across the world today.

Frank Anteri on Fighting Gravity with Metal and Concrete Adding Elevators and a Touch of Style Factoring in Weather and Location The Practical Issue of Price Conclusion