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A high-rise building is a building with a small footprint, small roof area, and immense facades. High-rise buildings have the potential to decongest urban sprawl as they can deal with high-density issues and lack of available land for development.

The approach towards the construction of a high-rise building is challenging and therefore requires consideration of critical factors. Some of the challenges in architectural, structural and MEP designs, investigations, construction, and maintenance arena have been discussed in this article.

10 Construction Challenges in High-Rise Buildings

1. Lightweight Structures

High-rise structures are designed as lightweight structures, making the selection of materials for structural and non-structural members a challenge during planning and execution. It becomes essential to make use of high-performance concrete (HPC), pre-stressed concrete, composite construction with steel, high-strength steel, lightweight masonry for walls and partitions, etc.

2. Wind And Earthquake Resistant Design

Wind and earthquake forces are the most predominant loads that demand lateral design of structures. Further, residents may have nausea effects, in case of large deflections and vibrations; hence, the buildings must be designed for both earthquake safety and comfort conditions.

In the buildings with base isolation, the building’s response gets modified in such a way that the ground below is capable of moving without transmitting no or minimal motion to the structure above; hence, base isolation is adopted for high-rise buildings.

Usually, wind loads are the governing factor of structural design in the case of high-rise buildings. The shape of the building plays a vital role in minimizing wind forces, and therefore, circular, chamfered cornered square or nearly circular and square-shaped buildings are preferred.

3. Geotechnical Investigations

The foundations of high-rise structures need special attention, both during geotechnical investigation and construction. The basic principle of geotechnical investigation is to go as deep into the earth as the height of the building. Further, a unique design of foundation may also be required with detailed analysis.

4. Provision of Basements

Since there is a large requirement of parking services in high-rise buildings, the provision of basements becomes almost essential. All the activities associated with the construction of basements such as retaining walls, diaphragm walls, and underground waterproofing pose a challenge for designers and engineers.

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5. Efficient Vertical Transportation System

Vertical transportation systems must be highly efficient and fast in high-rise buildings, particularly if used in a single run. Super light rope technology with a carbon-fiber core and high friction coating or further advanced technology is favorable. Though the number of elevators is not a concern in present times, but in the future, they will be optimized considering the advancement, sustainability, and cost of space.

6. Construction and Fire Safety

Safety in high-rise buildings is to be incorporated through structural safety, workers safety during construction and maintenance, safety from falling components, fire safety, and safety from lightning, etc. Fire incidents in high-rise structures can cost heavy damages which make safety a top priority for high-rise construction. Safety from falling objects during construction and maintenance of high-rise buildings is another challenge; hence, the materials for external facades must be selected carefully based on the need of the building.

7. Speed of Construction

The speed of construction in high-rise buildings is another challenge. New construction technologies are always adopted in high-rise structures for speed, which also ensures quality, safety, and economic stability. Prefabricated steel, composite, and RCC structures with high-strength concrete are adopted in high rise construction with the latest formwork techniques. Pumping of concrete, lifting materials and equipment, and working at higher levels in tall buildings are some of the major challenges for attaining the speed.

8. Repair and Maintenance

Repair and maintenance of high-rise buildings and services, including manual facade cleaning, are another challenge, which may soon get replaced by robotic maintenance in the future.

Maintenance and repair costs are also high in such buildings. Providing easy access for maintenance of services is also a challenge for architects and engineers. The use of materials requiring no or minimum maintenance should be given priority in high-rise construction.

The materials used in the services and hard-to-reach components should be compatible with the life of the buildings as maintenance and their replacement is difficult in high-rise buildings.

9. Provision Of Efficient Plumbing Services

Plumbing services are critical in high-rise structures. Designing of water storage, water pressure at various floors, recycled water system, soil, and waste drainage system, and rainwater piping are challenging tasks, along with maintenance and repair of plumbing services.

Every building is unique in form and comes with specific design solutions and therefore requires a plumbing design that complements the building’s needs.

10. Use Of Information Technology

Information Technology is required in the planning and construction phase of high-rise construction for architectural, structural and MEP designs, execution and operation, and maintenance. Building Information Modelling (BIM) has already become almost a necessity in such structures. Building operation controls are also set to get automatic, and IT-controlled, for qualifying to smart services, smart parking, smart equipment, and smart building.

Read More:
Types of High-Rise Buildings Structural Systems
Fire and Safety Features of High-Rise Buildings and Structures
Foundation Selection Criteria for Buildings
The Four Generations of High Rise Building Construction

Akshay Dashore

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