Structural Engineers Get Creative with Exoskeleton Technique

The fourth tallest sky-scraper in China, once complete, will boast a very unique exoskeleton which marries traditional techniques with modern innovation. The Chengdu Greenland Tower is due to be finished in 2018.

The colossal structure will be supported by a weight-bearing exoskeleton built upon the exterior of the building. An exoskeleton consists of a plethora of triangles, the most structurally-sound 2D shape.

Dennis Poon, one of the leading design engineers on the project explains that “it’s an efficient structural system because you use the entire width of the building to resist wind.”

Why is this Exoskeleton so Special?

This next-gen exoskeleton, however, doesn’t just lie flat against the surface like older, conventional exoskeletons. Each adjacent triangle is positioned on a different plane within the Chengdu exoskeleton snaking and weaving across the sky-scraper’s surface. This clever design enables the futuristic structure to face many different directions, letting in as much light as possible and creating a feeling of extra-space inside.

““The ideal goal is for the exterior structure to reflect the shape of the building, almost like they’re bound together. It makes the building more transparent by allowing you a bigger view on the inside”, says an architect who worked on the Chengdu Tower, Fei Xu.

There are many different weight bearing techniques, but the exoskeleton was chosen for practicality, as well as design.

Using such a technique is great for controlling building costs, while maintaining safety of materials as today’s concrete and steel is much stronger.

How was the Chengdu Tower Possible?

Thanks to leaps and bounds in technology, engineers of today can explore more creative structural designs on specially built computer models to look at and assess the structural integrity of unconventional geometry.

The Empire State Building, in contrast to Chengdu, was built using a slide rule, meaning all the calculations were done without the aid of fancy tech, but by hand instead.

Why Don’t We Build Higher?

Though we have the technology and materials to build up into the clouds these days, there are a 2 things which stop us.

1. There is no money in investing in super-tall buildings for developers as of yet.

2. Most cities have codes and laws enacted which prohibit building above a certain height because of disruption to flight traffic, or because it’s just deemed such a large structure would ruin the skyline of the city.

This article was originally published on