How Skyscrapers Are Anchored April 9, 2010

When peering up from the ground, skyscrapers seem to go on forever. The view from the upper floors is usually stunning, and it can feel a little strange to see how small everything on the ground appears. While enjoying the views, most people do not consider how these marvels of modern engineering are built. After construction is complete, it appears that a skyscraper simply sits on a normal foundation much like any other building. The reality is that a well-planned anchoring structure deep within the ground prevents these towering buildings from toppling over.

A low center of gravity is the secret to making sure skyscrapers are stable. If a skyscraper was built on a standard foundation, its center of gravity would be somewhere around the middle floor. This would make it very easy to tip over for the slightest reason. For maximum stability, the center of gravity is positioned deep within the ground. To achieve that goal, the building site is excavated until stable soil or bedrock is found. Next, a deep foundation is created that will anchor the structure to the ground.

If the bedrock is close to the surface of the soil,drilling rigs are brought in to create deep footings within the bedrock. The drill rigs are very similar to the equipment used to drill for oil, but are usually mounted on a truck for easy transport. Large drill bits, similar to a power drill, are used to cut through the bedrock. Steel or reinforced concrete pillars are inserted into the footings. Once the construction of the building begins, it is secured to these sturdy columns.

Pile driving equipment is used where the bedrock is much deeper. Vertical beams, or piles, are driven through the soil and into the bedrock. The pile driving process involves dropping a heavy weight on top of the piles repeatedly until they sink as deep as necessary to stabilize the skyscraper. The pile driver is a tall, upright device that holds the pile in a secure, vertical position. The hammer or weight used to drop on top of the pile is positioned near the top. A cushion sits between the hammer and the pile to prevent damage, while leads make sure that the hammer is under control. The entire device is held in place by a large crane.

Regardless of which method is used, the foundation makes the skyscraper even more stable than a normal building. As the foundation and building become one structure, the center of gravity is much lower than where it would be without the deep, underground infrastructure.


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