AEC Tech News (#307)

3 Nov, 2011 By: Cadalyst Staff

The Sky Is Not the Limit

Advances in BIM and software interoperability are helping propel a boom in supertall building construction.

By Heather Livingston

For more than 100 years, the world has been beguiled by the idea of constructing buildings that reach into the heavens. After Gustave Eiffel wowed the world in 1889 with his delicately latticed tower, humbled American architects began to embrace the idea of the tall building. Although the first skyscrapers were modest interpretations of the dream, they still were feats of engineering and architecture, and each time a skyscraper went up, technology evolved to make the dream possible.

The Kingdom Tower, designed by architects Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, will include an observation deck positioned at the 2,000-foot level — the highest in the world — overlooking the Red Sea. Images rendered using Autodesk Revit. ©Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
The Kingdom Tower, designed by architects Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, will include an observation deck positioned at the 2,000-foot level — the highest in the world — overlooking the Red Sea. Images rendered using Autodesk Revit.
©Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

During the 1920s and '30s, the skyscraper trend intensified into a national fervor in the United States, and the boom of construction gave rise to the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building in Manhattan. Of course, both were in high competition to claim the mantle of world's tallest — a title the Empire State Building won by 204 feet. The Skyscraper Museum in New York City considers that structure's 1,250-foot height to be the low bar for supertall skyscrapers today.

Current Quest

According to the Skyscraper Museum, in 2007 there existed 35 buildings — completed or on the boards — that fit the height requirement for categorization as supertall. Twelve of those projects dropped off the census as unrealized, but another 26 have been added for the current total of 49.

"When the Twin Towers were destroyed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, many predicted the end of the skyscraper era," says Carol Willis, director of the museum. "They were wrong. As [our] exhibition shows, supertalls are a significant building type of the 21st century."

The quest to construct the world's tallest building continues today. At present, the two-year-old Burj Khalifa (located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and previously known as the Burj Dubai) holds the title of world's tallest at 2,717 feet. Designed by Adrian Smith when he was at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the Burj Khalifa's record already has been challenged, and its fall to second tallest is imminent.

The challenger is the Kingdom Tower, now in design development by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architects (AS+GG). To be located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the structure is projected to reach a height of at least one kilometer, or 3,280 feet. Read more »

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Cadalyst contributing editor Heather Livingston is a Wichita, Kansas–based freelance writer specializing in design, sustainability, and architectural technology.

First Look Review: TurboViewer

Use this handy app to view 2D and 3D DWG files on your iPad or iPhone.

By R.K. McSwain

IMSI/Design, developer of TurboCAD, recently introduced TurboViewer, a new, free application for viewing 2D and 3D DWG files on the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. At press time, the company claimed that TurboViewer was the only mobile app capable of viewing 3D DWG files.

CAD managers and others should be reminded that iOS devices do not support USB and hard-wired network connections. These devices connect to the outside world through Wi-Fi or 3G only. My test device was an iPad 2 with Wi-Fi only, and I tested TurboViewer v1.0.4, which required iOS 4.2 or later.

Downloading TurboViewer is as easy as opening the App Store from your iOS device, searching for TurboViewer, and clicking the Free button. The app downloads and installs automatically. To view drawing files, e-mail a message with a DWG or DXF attachment to your mobile device or use your web browser to download files from web sites, FTP servers, or cloud-based storage systems such as Dropbox. Read more »

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Cadalyst contributing editor R.K. McSwain is a designer and CAD systems administrator for Pate Engineers in Houston.


Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events


HealthCare Design Conference
November 13–16, 2011
Nashville, Tennessee
This conference offers insight into the design, architecture, and engineering of healthcare environments, delivering content intended to inform, engage, and shape the industry. Read more »

Build Boston
November 16–18, 2011
Boston, Massachusetts
The 27th edition of this annual tradeshow and conference will offer twelve distinct tracks, and an AEC industry exhibit hall comprising more than 250 suppliers of building products. Read more »

AVEVA World North America User Conference
November 29–December 1, 2011
New Orleans, Louisiana
This event is organized for engineers and designers who operate AVEVA software in engineering, procurement, and construction companies (EPCs) and owner-operators in the plant and shipbuilding industries. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to


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About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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