Development History of High-rise Buildings

Burj Duabi

Nowadays, one can notice the competition between cities around the world to build the tallest building ever. High-rise buildings come to fulfill the desire to build a structure that can rise through the sky above the the entire city to become its landmark to the world. Another reason for the demand for high-rise buildings is society needs to build up not to build wide due to both limited lands and the economic benefit.


In Chicago, in 1871, a catastrophic fire stroke the city and destroyed almost the entire city. People needed to start over building. The high land price directed people at that time to the idea “build upwards rather than to expand the base“. And, that initial idea was the base for developing the high-rise buildings.

Chicago great fire


At that time, several problems arose that must be solved to build taller buildings including the lack of adequate construction materials and structural systems (masonry was the used material then but it has very low strength!). Moreover, Masonry would lead to large base space consumption. For instance, Monadnock  a 16-floor high-rise masonry building – built in Chicago in 1891 had walls on the ground floor have a thickness of 2 m.


Monadnock building


The need for lighter and more efficient structural material to build higher structures is now obvious. Iron was considered to be the alternative. Using it, William Jenney, an American engineer, invented a new structural system– iron skeleton frame which utilizes steel as the primary load bearing material and combined with masonry as a perimeter material. That solved the problem at that time.

Furthermore, by inventing the self-break elevator which allowed the transportation of people safely to higher floors and inventing the telephone which made long distance communications possible, the development of high-rise buildings broke through and the competitions for ‘the world’s tallest’ title initiated and continued till today.


In 1894, the 106 m tall Manhattan Life Insurance Building was built

Manhattan Life Insurance Building

After 15 years, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower in New York became the first building that is over 200 m in height.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower

In 1931, the Empire State Building with the height of 381 m became then the tallest building and held the record for 42 years. After 1980s, the construction paradigm shifted from America to Asia and the Middle East. Nowadays, the tallest building in the world now is Burj Khalifa with 828 m height.

Empire State Building Burj Khalifa

Following is a figure showing the WORLD’S TALLEST BUILDINGS


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