Fatter Wallets Mean Skinnier Skyscrapers

Eliot Brown examines the global trend in skinny skyscrapers, as developers take advantage of technological advances and fatter wallets at the high end of the housing market to deliver stellar views.
November 20, 2012, 2pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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In New York, Tel Aviv, and Vancouver tall thin towers are "sprouting like luxury beanstalks from small lots" for a clientele that can afford to subsidize their higher construction costs. According to Brown, "[f]ueling 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."

"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."

"Technology has also helped give rise to the buildings," notes Brown. "For instance, the material of choice for apartment towers, steel-reinforced concrete, is more than twice as strong as a generation ago. Software in engineering offices can much better predict issues like how much a tower might sway, allowing for more efficient buildings with fewer columns," and of course, better views.

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Published on Friday, November 16, 2012 in The Wall Street Journal
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