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M II A II R II K Nov 22, 2012 5:47 PM

Slim Pickings: The Rise of Skinny Skyscrapers
Slim Pickings: The Rise of Skinny Skyscrapers

November 16, 2012


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In New York, Tel Aviv, Vancouver and other cities around the globe, skinny apartment towers are on the rise, sprouting like luxury beanstalks from small lots—some only as wide as a handful of townhomes. While thin towers already crowd the skyline in land-starved cities like Hong Kong, developers elsewhere generally eschewed the slim structures, opting for larger, more stable floors—typically at least 10,000 square feet for tall buildings. But that's been changing lately.

In New York, work has begun on the planned tower at 432 Park Ave., designed by architect Rafael Viñoly, that is expected to have approximately 8,250-square-foot floors and is slated to rise to about 145 feet taller than the Empire State Building. Just one block south of Central Park, the 1,004-foot-tall One57—which saw its crane break during superstorm Sandy—is under construction, with floors as small as 6,240 square feet. And the Cetra/Ruddy-designed One Madison Park, a 597-foot tower with 3,300-square-foot floors, is nearing completion.

Fueling the drive toward slim living is an array of factors led by robust demand from the upper crust of the residential market willing to pay for premium views. Advances both in structural design and building materials have also made constructing skinny skyscrapers possible. In the end, higher prices mean developers can build on small sites that in the past wouldn't have allowed it. "If you can build more slender and higher, you can get more units with good views—and height is valued," said Vancouver, British Columbia, developer Jon Stovell, who last year finished a 350-foot tower that has 4,850-square-foot floors. Mr. Stovell said that it was one of the last development sites in the tony Coal Harbour neighborhood, and that sale prices of more than $1,000 per square foot justified the added costs of building high.

Indeed, many of the developers have high ambitions for sales. In Tel Aviv, developer Berggruen Residential Ltd. is building a 590-foot-tall condo tower designed by architect Richard Meier that sports 8,450-square-foot floors and a 13,454-square-foot duplex penthouse that is listed for $50 million. In New York, buyers are signing up for condos at One57 at record-setting prices. Developer Extell Development Co. said two buyers have agreed to pay more than $90 million for two penthouses, which would be the most expensive apartment sales ever in the city.

For the 120-plus units planned for 432 Park, developer CIM Group is asking an average $4,800 per square foot. The developer has filed plans with the state to list a six-bedroom penthouse for $85 million. Building high, of course, gets expensive. As the floor count goes up, steel takes longer to lift and high winds can stall construction. Slender towers need a giant device, called a damper, toward the top to counter sway from wind. Without such features, buildings could rock to the point of making residents motion-sick.


IMBY Nov 29, 2012 12:37 PM

Very interesting! Thanks for posting that!

THE BIG APPLE Jul 23, 2013 12:42 AM

This is the only concern I have with thin buildings, and I don't want people to take this to the heart (it's engineering).

If one plane hitting each tower dropped the Twins, then surely 432 Park Ave is easy pickings especially since its exponentially thinner and approx the same height. Again don't take it personally, I'm just bringing up something worth bringing up and just add your two cents.

(Same plane in the photos BTW)

scalziand Jul 23, 2013 3:26 AM

It is harder to hit a smaller target. Plus, there is the possibility that not all the plane's kinetic energy will go into the tower since parts of the plane won't actually hit the tower. I suppose it's possible to fly the plane rolled 90 degrees vertically into the tower to ensure maximum damage, but I find that pretty improbable for a hijacking scenario.

In the case of 432 Park though, I would expect that the solid high strength reinforced columns hold hold up better under that type of impact than the hollow tubes used in the WTC. Tubes crush pretty easily relative to their axial strength, especially under a lateral point load concurrent with a compressive axial load. Not to mention the concrete will be far more fire resistant. 432 Park also has many more transfer levels than the single hat truss the WTC towers had.

Beedok Jul 23, 2013 3:39 AM

Apart from 9/11 and a bomber hitting the Empire State Building, aren't planes hitting buildings rather rare events? Heck in the near future I think New York has moderate earthquake risks so that's a bigger concern, and you're way more likely to get killed driving to work either way.

THE BIG APPLE Jul 23, 2013 3:55 AM


It is harder to hit a smaller target......
^ Let's face it, IT IS possible. I'm sure all safety measures went into it, BUT let's not prefabricate the fact that (while YES it is 93x93 ft vs 200x200 ft) if the same strength went into it the building would come down. Remember the twin towers had a reinforced cast concrete tubular 87 feet by 133 feet core (which came down along with the twins). Now 432 Park could literally fit into the core given several feet. Concrete is stronger than steel BUT regular concrete crumbles at 1200+ F. Reinforced concrete is of course used in skyscrapers, but still if hit in a similar targeted fashion then it's entirely possible (but unlikely as many won't have access to this building and it won't be a tourist attraction in that majestic sense).

dchan Jul 23, 2013 1:00 PM

How come "truther" websites are the only ones that claim that WTC 1 and 2 had a "reinforced cast concrete tubular core"? Everywhere else, I read that the towers had a steel core with drywall fireproofing.

Also, let's get this misconception out of the way. Concrete is NOT stronger than steel, technically speaking for equal volumes of each material. Concrete, however, can be made as strong or stronger than steel with enough volume. It is stronger still when it is reinforced with steel rebar or other steel reinforcing methods.

And yes, concrete strength is indeed affected by heat exposure. But this will typically only affect the outside layer of the concrete. The rest of the concrete as well as the steel reinforcement should be below 500°F at 2 hour fire exposure, which is below the the yield temperature for steel.

In any case, the point of using a reinforced concrete core is not so much to allow the building to remain unscathed in a terrorist attack, but to allow the occupants of the building to exit the building safely through the stairs within the core.

MalcolmTucker Aug 11, 2013 5:31 AM

Many floor trusses failed from the fire, which caused enough of the perimeter to fail that the core was over burdened.

I don't think it reasonable to design against highly improbable events. That is what insurance is for.

fleonzo Aug 11, 2013 2:36 PM

I lived at 120 Greenwich Street (apt 8f) on 9.11 so I wouldn't normally entertain a post about planes into buildings but just keep this in mind; there have been far many more instances of planes crashing into 'Single Family Houses" than into buidlings and as one poster stated earlier these are rare events. You have more chances of getting struck by lightening than a plane flying into your condo....:koko:

scalziand Aug 23, 2013 5:54 PM

Depending on the design, 111w57 may be one of the narrowest supertalls built to date, with a height of 1200 feet (366M) with only 330,000 square feet, and may be as narrow as 43 feet wide.

BrownTown Aug 25, 2013 10:59 PM

Personally, I hate these incredibly skinny towers. Not just because they LOOK out of proportion, but because they ARE out of proporiton. They only make economical sense as the residences of the ulta-wealthy and are otherwise a conisderable waste of money. I know this is a skyscraper forum and we are supposed to love height, but the sort of absurd towers that get built to cater to the ultra-wealthy (such as these skinny skysrcapers) or to regional dick measureing (such as in China and the Middle East) are just plain silly. I much prefer office towers like those at the World Trade Center and Hudson Yards that are more reasonably proportioned.

nsg Sep 9, 2013 11:36 PM

Though it is incredibly slender, the columns on 432 are quite robust, so I think the tower might be able to withstand the impact of a 767 if it was hit on the higher floors.

This however, couldn't withstand even a mid-sized airplane. It's 43feet wide and 1350 feet high!

ardecila Sep 10, 2013 7:30 AM

I don't know why this is even a concern. The World Trade Center was targeted as a symbol of American financial power, some of the world's tallest buildings sitting right off Wall Street. 432 Park is just a huge building for a bunch of billionaire jerks. It's an assemblage of private homes, not a target. When have major terrorist attacks ever focused on the homes of individuals, excepting political figures?

scalziand Sep 15, 2013 1:47 AM

Hypothetically speaking, these will be the homes of the 1%. It's conceivable that a OWS type person might try to attack one of the towers because of that, and how prominent they are.

chris08876 Oct 5, 2013 8:40 PM

What is the risk of a major earthquake impacting these towers? Wind already puts a lot of strain as you get higher up but we are always hearing how sensitive NYC is to earthquakes. These always make me a little worried.

scalziand Oct 5, 2013 11:08 PM

NY has a fairly good chance of getting moderate earthquakes of 6-7 magnitude every once and a while. Tall skinny skyscrapers are pretty good at resisting earthquakes though, because they have more height to dissipate the energy of the earth quake in.

fflint Oct 6, 2013 2:20 AM


Originally Posted by scalziand (Post 6292211)
NY has a fairly good chance of getting moderate earthquakes of 6-7 magnitude every once and a while.

That is not obviously true. According to Wikipedia, the largest known earthquake in the New York region "had a magnitude of approximately 5."

speedy1979 Oct 7, 2013 3:47 AM


Originally Posted by fflint (Post 6292358)
That is not obviously true. According to Wikipedia, the largest known earthquake in the New York region "had a magnitude of approximately 5."

That's the largest earthquake that has occurred since Europeans/Americans have lived here. Unfortunately 400 years is a split second geologically speaking.

antinimby Oct 29, 2013 3:48 PM

Silly wabbits, most of these condos are investment homes. They are unlikely to be occuppied at any given time. No one is stupid enough to spend their time and effort targeting a mostly empty condo building when there are lots of other busier targets like train stations, office buildings, markets, etc.

dchan Oct 29, 2013 5:15 PM


Originally Posted by antinimby (Post 6319424)
Silly wabbits, most of these condos are investment homes. They are unlikely to be occuppied at any given time. No one is stupid enough to spend their time and effort targeting a mostly empty condo building when there are lots of other busier targets like train stations, office buildings, markets, etc.

Don't mind what Big Apple is saying here, given that he's the only one here who's even "concerned" about an airplane strike to this condo building. The only thing he's concerned with is planting in everyone's mind that 9/11 was a conspiracy, and supporting his position through blatant lies and other garbage (such as claiming the original WTC towers had reinforced concrete cores).

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