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2004: Burj Khalifa- Dubai, UAE

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Image Credits: [1] [2]

Innovation: Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world)
Location: Dubai, UAE
Architect/Structural Engineering: Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM)
Construction timeline: January 2004- January 2010

The tallest building in the world at 2,717 feet, the Burj Khalifa represents a collaboration between engineers, architects, specialists, and contractors from around the world at a magnitude never before seen.  More than 30 contractors from around the world had 12,000 workers on site per day that represented over 100 nationalities. Specialists from China worked on a cladding system that can withstand intense summer heat and significant wind load. Chicago-based firm SOM provided the architectural and structural design for the structure.

A reinforced concrete foundation containing 192 reinforced concrete piles buried 164 feet supports the tower, which is centered around a buttressed hexagonal concrete core with 26 helical levels that decrease in cross section higher in elevation. The setback structure of the building eliminates abrupt transfers in load and eliminates wind vortices by varying building shape at different heights. The core itself resists torsional movement while corridor walls resist wind shear and moments. Vertical columns in the wall system resist both lateral loads and gravity, making the Burj Khalifa an efficient structure. A spire made of 4,000 tons of structural steel tops the structure and had to be constructed inside the tower and raised with a hydraulic pump. Every 30 stories, an entire floor is devoted to MEP equipment and the tower holds the record for world’s tallest service elevators. `

Construction timeline and innovative construction techniques
Burj Khalifa facts and figures


Written by Meagan Wilkes

January 1, 2004 at 7:36 pm

2003: First offering of the Architectural Engineering PE Exam

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Innovation: First offering of the Architectural Engineering PE exam
Date: April 2003
By: The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) and the Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI)

Formal education in architectural engineering (focusing on structural, mechanical or electrical fields of building design with an appreciation for integrating building design elements) became widespread in the US by the 1950’s.  The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) developed the Architectural Engineering Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) examination in the 1990’s and first offered the exam in April 2003 [1]. This exam marked the distinction of architectural engineering as an engineering discipline and allowed architectural engineering graduates to become fully licensed professional engineers.   The Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI) sponsored the development of the exam and remains responsible for is maintenance. In 2010, a Professional Activities and Knowledge Survey (PAKS) was performed on the exam to verify that content tested still represents information relevant to the field.  The survey defined three domains of the field that were present on the old exam that continue to be tested in the new exam: electrical systems, mechanical systems, and structural systems. In addition, two new domains were added to the 2010 version of the exam: Building Systems Integration and Project Management/Construction Administration. PAKS will be repeated again in six to eight years, resulting in another modified PE exam [2].  `

More about the exam: [1], [2]

Written by Meagan Wilkes

April 1, 2003 at 7:07 pm

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2001: 30 St. Mary Axe (Swiss Re Building)- London, England

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Image sources: [1] and [2]

Innovation: 30 St. Mary Axe (also called the Swiss Re Building and “the Gherkin”)
Location: London, England
Architects: Foster and Partners
Engineering: ARUP
Contractor: Skanska
Construction: 2001-2003 (opened April 2004)

The Swiss Re building (also called “the Gherkin” because of its unusual shape) is designed for energy efficiency. Office floor plans are arranged such that gaps in the floor create six shafts around the perimeter of the building that promote natural ventilation and provide natural light. All of the windows are double glazed, providing an insulating layer of air around the building and allowing for passive solar heating. [1]

The triangulated facade, created by a pattern of intersecting columns that spiral up the building in both directions, supports the structure and frees up floor space on the interior of the building. Wherever the facade columns intersect, a perimeter hoop carries horizontal forces. These hoops are in tension in the middle and the lower part of the building but in compression at the top. The aerodynamic shape of the tower deflects wind around the building, lessening wind load.

Read more about the Swiss Re building’s structure in this article

Written by Meagan Wilkes

January 1, 2001 at 1:47 am

1998: Millennium Bridge- London, England

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Images: [1] and [2]
Innovation: Millennium Bridge
Location: London, England
Architects: Foster and Partners
Engineering: ARUP
Bridge Length: 325 meters (1,066 ft)
Construction: 1998- June 2010 opening

In the face of height restrictions, engineers chose to place support cables for the bridge under deck level. Eight suspension cables support the aluminum deck via two river piers. Two days after the bridge opened, unexpected vibration led officials to close the structure. The vibration was caused by a positive feedback phenomenon known as synchronous lateral excitation. Natural swaying motion of people walking across the footbridge caused some lateral sway. When faced with this small sway, people naturally adjust their gate to sway in step with the bridge, which increases the amplitude of vibration. Engineers had not expected this lateral resonant vibration. The problem was fixed by installing 37 fluid-viscous dampers that dissipated energy to control lateral movement and 52 tuned mass dampers to control vertical movement. Renovations took from May 2001-January 2002 at a cost of five million pounds. The bridge reopened February 2002 and is no longer subject to positive feedback phenomenon. [1]

Read more about ARUP’s innovative solution to the vibration here 

Written by Meagan Wilkes

January 1, 1998 at 12:49 am