Modern Buildings Impossible Without Advances in Technology

Brief History of Composite Steel Construction

Intro - 1885 - 1894 - 1950s - 1960s - 1973 - 1983 - 2009

Tall buildings impossible without advances in technology.

The composite steel frame skeleton was nothing short of a structural revolution when it was developed in Chicago in the late nineteenth century, and it has been evolving ever since. Early tall buildings constructed with cast-iron framing were susceptible to fire and it was discovered that encasing the iron in concrete increased the material’s resistance to fire. Composite beams are structural members composed of steel and concrete joined together to act as a single unit. An example is a composite beam with a steel flange (I or W shape) attached to a concrete floor slab. There are two primary advantages: the system that results from joining the two materials is stronger, and composite action maximizes the properties of each material. The compressive strength of the concrete combined with the tensile strength of the steel yields a significantly stronger system. Initially, iron and/or steel frames replaced conventional load-bearing masonry walls to minimize the depth and width of structural members, allowing larger openings in the facades of buildings. The outer skin or curtain wall - now a non-structural element - could be thinner and filled with glass while the iron/steel skeletons were clad in materials such as terra cotta or brick. The benefits of the new construction method included reduced wall thickness, increased valuable floor space, allowed more daylight to reach into the building’s interior, and reduced weight, all of which allowed substantial increases in height. Structural steel has led the market for framing systems for commercial building construction for the past 50 years.

Alli, Mir M. Art of the Skyscraper: The Genius of Fazlur Khan. New York: Rizzoli, 2001.
Ali, Mir M.. "Evolution of Concrete Skyscrapers: From Ingalls to Jin Mao." Electronic Journal of Structural Engineering 1.1 (2001): 2-14.
Ali, Mir M., and Kyoung S. Moon. "Structural Developments in Tall Buildings: Current Trends and Future Prospects." Architectural Science Review 50.3 (2007): 205-23.
Ching, Francis D. K. A Visual Dictionary of Architecture. New York: Wiley, 1996.
Dupre, Judith. Skyscrapers. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2001.
Taranath, Bungale S. Steel, Concrete, and Composite Design of Tall Buildings. New York:McGraw-Hill, 1997.