Culture Magazine

The High Life

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
In New York City:
In any case, 57th Street is now dubbed Billionaire’s Row, and wealth has reached new altitudes. Advances in skyscraper technology have much to do with this. William F. Baker, who helped engineer the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, at 2,717 feet the world’s tallest tower, recently explained the engineering behind life above 800 feet. Engineers, he said, who long ago figured out how to make sure skyscrapers won’t topple over, are focused more and more these days on the trickier problem of making people inside feel secure. It’s a challenge because very tall, very slim buildings are designed, like airplane wings, to bend not break. An average person starts worrying about movement in a high-rise long before there’s anything approaching a threat to safety. Mild jostling that you take for granted in a car or train can provoke panic at 100 stories, even if you’re still safer in the building than in the car.
Incredible efforts now go into mitigating those effects. Today’s superslender towers are outfitted with sophisticated counterweights, or dampers, and other movement-tempering devices, as they are also outfitted with elevators that speed tenants to their aeries but not so swiftly that you will perceive any troubling G-forces. Something around 30 feet per second seems to be an ideal velocity, suggesting there may be an ultimate height for luxury towers — not because we can’t engineer a mile-high building but because rich tenants won’t abide elevators that take several minutes to reach apartments for which they paid the annual expenditures of the Republic of Palau.

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