Published: 18 June 2015

Engineering skyscrapers


Above: Shanghai Tower. Image source: Yhz1221, Wikkicommons

Professor Ding Jiemin FIStructE is President of Tongji Architectural Design Co. Ltd. He specialises in steel structures and super high-rise buildings, designing projects like The Shanghai Tower, Shandong Art Museum and Fuzhou South Railway Station. He has been a practising structural engineer for over 25 years.  Here he talks about structural engineers’ contribution to the design of skyscrapers.

Structural engineers make a vital contribution to the design of skyscrapers – we are concerned with making sure that structures are strong enough to stand up, and skyscrapers experience all kinds of stresses and strains from factors like wind and earthquakes.

Therefore the engineer’s part is vital, creating an accurate structural analysis model to derive reliable ‘loading’ data, and a structural design based on analysis of structural performance.

We also have to find a good match of structural design and fabrication technology – i.e. we have to consider the best way to put the building together on site, since many skyscrapers are located in built-up ‘downtown’ areas, and we have to consider how the build will affect the local environment.
Shanghai Tower was one of my more challenging projects. It was the first skyscraper over 600m built in China, and the first skyscraper of that height constructed in an area where both wind loading and earthquake action are important considerations.

We overcame many challenges in the tower’s structural analysis, design and construction, and some of the design principles and methodology have been used in other designs.

Tongji UniversityIn 2015 there were over 500 buildings with a height of over 200m being designed or constructed in China.

How to improve the mechanical characteristics of the buildings, helping them to resist wind load and earthquake action, is an important area of study - vibration reduction technology is one such direction.

I am delighted to see a building I have worked on completed, but there is usually some regret too, as I normally notice an imperfection.

The project that I perhaps least regret is the Teaching and Research Complex of Tongji University (left).

This is an example of a good combination of architectural and structural skills, while using a number of new technologies.


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