Future Technology and Tall Buildings

Matt Breidenthal
Senior Vice President
HOK, Inc., New York City

William Baker / Aaron Mazeika / David Shook

Building tall has always been driven by aspiration, but achieved through technology. From the dawn of the skyscraper, technological advances such as the metal building frame system, passenger elevators, electric power networks and air conditioning systems all enabled the growth of this novel building type. As the underlying technologies have continued to evolve, and as those professionals working in this field continue to innovate, the realm of the possible has steadily grown. Fifty years ago the tallest building in world was the 381m tall Empire State Building, which had already held that title for 38 years, with only one tower over 300m tall having been built during that time. What was once extraordinary is now commonplace, with more than 100 buildings over 300m tall being built in the last 10 years alone. In a world where technological advancements seem always to be accelerating, what future technologies will have the most impact on the design of our tall buildings? Cutting edge technologies as disparate as rope-less elevators, photovoltaic glazing, autonomous transportation and artificial intelligence & machine learning look set to fundamentally change the nature of our architecture, our cities and our very process of designing the built environment. By investigating current and planned fields of academic research, we can anticipate some of the technological changes and begin preparing ourselves for the design challenges and opportunities of the next fifty years.

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