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They're back! Global summit celebrates skyscraper resurgence

They're back! Global summit celebrates skyscraper resurgence

The City that Never Sleeps is ready for a week of late nights, awaiting scores of high-minded sky walkers.

The City that Never Sleeps is ready for a week of late nights, awaiting scores of high-minded sky walkers.

by JOHN GREGERSON | Oct 22, 2015

All eyes are on the skies once again, as tall buildings around the world ascend to heights not seen in years. This week in Manhattan, high-minded engineers, architects, developers, urban planners and public and private stakeholders of all stripes have converged at “Global Interchanges: Resurgence of the Skyscaper City”, the annual star-studded international conference of the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). 

"From the Americas and Asia to the Middle East and Australia – even in Europe – a significant number of tall buildings are under proposal, design and construction after an extended post-recession hiatus, says CTBUH Communications Coordinator Alannah Sharry, noting that many such projects are proceeding in accordance with new fundamentals. “We're seeing greater global inter-connectivity, with, say, Chinese architects MAD, designing the Absolute World Towers in Toronto,” adds Sharry.

Other such examples include U.S. architects working on Middle East towers, like the SOM-designed, 160-story Burj Kalifa in Dubai (which also involves SmartWorlds advisor Paul Doherty), as well as Japanese investors financing yet another new NYC high rise. In fact, that surge in global investment is among the reasons CTBUH selected New York as host. Its "evolving high-rise tapestry" provided a powerful draw for conference planners, said Sharry.

432 Park: Among new ultra slims.

432 Park: Among new ultra slims.

Among newer building types are ultra-slim towers, which "are all over China, particularly Hong Kong," she says, where small apartments are stacked in abundance for the densely populated cities. In contrast, New York's ultra slims tend to be very large, multi-floor residences for the ultra wealthy. Such residential towers in Manhattan allow developers to maximize square footage in a borough with little to no elbow room. Among the more prominent examples there are: One57, a 75-story sleek entry designed by Christian de Portzamparc, and 432 Park, an 88-story skyscraper designed by Rafael Viñoly. Earlier this year, of course, lower Manhattan added its own new giant, the 1,776-ft-tall One World Trade Center, designed by David Childs of SOM.

All will be the subject of separate CTBUH tours for attendees next week. At the conference, itself, such luminaries as architects Adrian Smith, Jeanne GangDaniel Liebskind, Bjarke Ingels, and Moshe Safdie will be among those taking a turn on center stage. 

A broad range of sessions will canvass the globe, with the largest concentration focused on Asia. Not coincidentally, CTBUH earlier this year opened its first office outside of the U.S. in Shanghai. There, newly branded design consultancy CallisonRTKL's office is led by SVP Greg Yager, who will present next week on strategies for creating responsible and profitable high-density, mixed-use developments in Asia. In particular, he will discuss the firm's Riverside Theatre project in Guiyang, China. The same city is home to its own World Trade Center, which features a 1,246-ft-high concrete tube structure, designed by SOM. Design partner Scott Duncan will discuss the project. 

Also in China, a 1,535-ft-tall tower in Chengdu features a novel, non-coplanar exoskeleton, designed by NYC-based structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti. The firm's vice chairman, Dennis Poon, next week will explain the ins and outs of the design for the assembled international audience. Seoul, Korea's own 123-story Jamsil Lotte World Tower, will be the subject of a separate presentation by Jong-Ho Kim, CEO and chairman with structural engineer Chang Minwoo Structural Consultants. He will discuss the challenges and opportunities inherent in designing what will be Korea's tallest building.

Elsewhere on the agenda is a revealing look at the astounding elevator design required for the world's future tallest building, the 3,281-ft-high Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. James Fortune of Houston-based Fortune Shepler Saling Consulting, a vertical transportation specialist, will provide the details. 

Towering technology, bRAINY BuildingS

Educational sessions will include an eagerly anticipated presentation on Di-BOSS, purportedly the world's first Digital Building Operating System Solution that functions as a structure's “brain". The program creates ”a facility that archives data systems such as energy consumption, occupancy and space temperatures, with DiBOSS using computational memory to learn thermodynamic responses of buildings under specific weather conditions,” explains presenter Michael Rudin, of NYC-based Rudin Management Co. Inc., in a research paper he co-authored, entitled Buildings Finally Get a Brain. 

The upshot? “A total property optimizer can combine this [information] with weather forecasts to optimize all energy usage, as well as automate other critical building performance operations, such as modulation of VFD frequencies throughout the work day,” Rudin writes. Of note, DiBOSS is made by Selex ES, a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of Rome, Italy-based aerospace giant Finmeccanica

Also focused on smart energy use, Anthony Malkin, chairman and CEO of Empire State Realty Trust Inc., will discuss ongoing efforts to transform a beloved Depression-era icon, the Empire State Building, into one of the city's most energy-efficient structures. As Malkin has noted, “If we can make it work here, we can make it work anywhere.” Specifically, he explains that the 84-year-old building has slashed its energy consumption by 38% thanks to a major window refurbishment, a radiator insulation retrofit, air handler replacements, a chiller plant retrofit, lighting, daylighting and plug upgrades, among several other initiatives. 

HIGH PRAISE, more to come

Though the event organizer intends to keep the spotlight on tall buildings, an Oct. 26 ceremony will momentarily shine it on CTBUH, itself. Then, the National Building Museum will officially award its 2015 Henry C. Turner Prize for Innovation in Construction to the Council. Established in 2001 by NYC-based contractor Turner Construction Co., the honor recognizes “high achievement in the process of construction, including inventions, innovative methodologies and exemplary leadership.”

This year, CTBUH was cited for its publication of technical papers, professional guidelines and other materials developed by engineers, academics and thought leaders on nearly every aspect of tall building construction, now available free on its web site. According to the museum announcement, the Turner Prize also honors the vision, ambition, and sense of social responsibility that drove the late Council founder Lynn Beedle to establish CTBUH. In 1992, Beedle wrote, “The need [for CTBUH]…stemmed from things like the exploding urban population, creating an increased demand for tall buildings; the need for economy in construction; the frequent neglect of human factors at the expense of livability, and the quality of life; the need for new research required in the field; and the necessity of establishing priorities for such reasons.”

The prize comes with a $25,000 honorarium, which CTBUH indicates it will use to promote research for “an important new publication.” Sharry declined to provide any more details. The Council is remaining mum on the prize until it has it in hand. Meantime, it has a week-long conference to tend to.

CTBUH is the 13th recipient of the National Building Museum's Turner Prize. That places it in the esteemed company of Leslie Robertson, I.M Pei, Charles DeBenedittis, The U.S. Green Building Council, Penn State University's Dept. of Engineering, Paul Teicholz, Gehry Partners and Gehry Technologies, Charlie Thornton, Engineers Without Borders-USA, Caterpillar, Inc., the Society of Women Engineers, and the Lean Construction Institute.

CTBUH is the 13th recipient of the National Building Museum's Turner Prize. That places it in the esteemed company of Leslie Robertson, I.M Pei, Charles DeBenedittis, The U.S. Green Building Council, Penn State University's Dept. of Engineering, Paul Teicholz, Gehry Partners and Gehry Technologies, Charlie Thornton, Engineers Without Borders-USA, Caterpillar, Inc., the Society of Women Engineers, and the Lean Construction Institute.

For more from the event next week, as it happens, follow CTBUH on Twitter.

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