Significance of Temporary Construction Structures

Shanghai Tower

Despite its short existence as a structure on this planet, the Shanghai Tower has already become an architectural marvel. Located in China, it is the tallest building in the country, the second-largest in the world, it executes a 120 degree turn as it ascends from the bottom to the top and it makes use of nearly four dozen sustainable technologies at the same time. This report will detail where precisely the building is located, when it was built, who designed the structure, who constructed the structure, the engineers that were involved, the technical details of the project, the temporary measures that were used to construct the building and why the building is considered (or should be considered) one of the architectural marvels of the world. While there are other impressive buildings and structures out there, the Shanghai Tower certain deserves its own mention and it is also most certainly among the elite man-made structures in the world.

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Structure Involved & Key Information

As indicated already, the Shanghai Tower is in China. To be more specific, the structure is in the Pudong District. There is an area within the Pudong District that is known as the Luliazui Finance and Trade Zone and that specific area is where the tower is located. Construction of the tower began in late 2008 and was just completed last summer, in 2015. The firm that was behind the architecture was an American company by the name of Gensler. However, the architect that led the designing of the building was Chinese, that being Jun Xia. There were a total of three engineering firms involved in the projected. Those firms were Consentini Associates, IDEA Ecological Solutions and Thornton Tomasetti. The main contractor that was involved in the construction of the tower was Shanghai Construction Group.

Technical Details

The technical details that deserve mention when it comes to the Shanghai Tower are numerous and they all deserve their own mention. The total area of the site is about 7.5 acres. This comes out to about 30,370 square meters. The tower itself is a total of 2,073 feet tall, which is about 632 meters. The amount of area that is above grade is about 410,000 square meters (4.4 million square feet) and the amount of area below grade is about 166,000 square meters (about 1.8 million square feet). The building contains a number of different real estate types and they include offices, luxury hotel space, entertainment venues, retail and cultural venues. The podium of the building is 36.9 meters, or about 121 feet tall. About five stories of the podium are above grade. The area of the podium is about 46,000 square meters, which is not quite half a million square feet. The podium area has retail, banking, restaurants, conference areas, meeting spaces and banquet facilities. The areas below grade include more retail area, nearly two thousand parking spaces and service/MEP functions. As noted earlier, the Shanghai Tower is the tallest building in China and it is the second-tallest in the world. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the only structure that is taller than the Shanghai tower at this time.

Significant Temporary Construction Structures

The building of the tower was no small thing. However, there was certainly a system to it. For the core of the tower, a repeated “slip-forming” process was used. This process was repeated over and over as each floor came together. The shape of the building was based on wind tunnel tests as compared by one of the main engineering firms involved, that being Thornton Tomasetti. The extensive work done on that subject before the building was even erected led to a structure that reduced the wind loads on the building by nearly a fourth, right at 24%. There was also the use, again in advance, of parametric software. It was found that traditional computer-aided tools would have been cumbersome when it came to designing such a building. However, the parametric software allowed Gensler to create a system that helped balance performance, maintenance, constructability and overall design aesthetics and details. The use of lasers on the construction site were used to measure and verify tolerances. In total, there were 20,589 wall panels made and there were more than seven thousand different shapes out of that larger hole. While building the structure, a third of all of the area was always reserved for “green” space. As will be covered later in this report, sustainable energy and other technologies are a staple of this structure. Just one example of how the construction crew had to account for “green” areas is that there are gardens littered throughout the building. Each of those areas require their own resources and structures to be in place.

As far as the real challenges that the construction company and personnel had to face, the height of the building alone presented a challenged because that alone presents problems relating to its safety, stability and performance. Further, any and all imperfections with the building can lead to additional stresses and permanent deformations while the building is in its service stage. Given that, it was a challenge of the construction personnel to keep the strain and stress of all of the different components within acceptable and permissible ranges. There was also the concern of non-uniform and/or excessive settlement around the foundation. If that had happened during construction, it would have made the entire building less stable. There was also the challenge of estimating and otherwise accounting for wind loads on the building. While the design of the building was specifically meant to keep this in mind, it was still nonetheless a factor while the building was being erected. Further, a building this tall has major potential issues with things such as simple shear type, flexural type, flexural-shear type and so forth. As such, there was the use of eight independent strengthening floors to help mitigate this as a problem. To help keep swaying to a minimum, there was the use of tower and inter-story drifts under wind, earthquake and temperature shifts during and after construction was completed. As a bit of a safety mechanism, the movements of the building can be checked in two horizontal directions and the rotation around the center can also be calculated.

Another extraordinary and unique facet of the construction of the Shanghai tower was the length of the bored piles used to support the building. Indeed, the piles for the Shanghai tower are considered to be “super-long” as they are larger than fifty meters in length. Making such long piles is not the easiest thing to pull off as maintaining and upholding quality is less than easy in many instances. However, the constructors of the Shanghai Tower dealt with this by using the adoption of post-grouting and this allowed the pile tip resistance and the pile shaft friction to be increased by a significant amount. The sand layers in the tower’s foundation are sixty meters thick and there are a total of 831 reinforced concrete bore piles. The constructors used C50 grade concrete and there had to be continuous pours of more than sixty hours, which is two and a half days in a row. That pour led to the creation of an area that was 61,000 cubic meters and a mat that was six meters thick. That concrete pour by itself broke a world record given that it occurred in one single pass rather than being broken up into segments of lesser time or the volume of concrete being poured.

The management of the project broke everything into three main phases, those being the tower’s steel reinforcement work, the construction of the concrete core and then the framing of the floors, in that order. Management vis-a-vis the construction of the tower also came in the form of actions from the local and national politicians in China and the Pudong area. For example, there were street cracks observed in January 2012 in the Pudong area. Of course, this was during the construction of the tower, which had begun in 2008 but did not finish until 2015. Ultimately, the very heavy weight of the tower as it was being constructed was deemed to be at least one of the main causes. However, further analysis revealed that too much water being pumped out of the area was a bigger issue and the Chinese government helped counteract this by pumping in about 60,000 tons of water into the aquifers.

Justification for being considered “Great Structure”

Based on what has been stated already, the Shanghai Tower is clearly a “great structure.” However, the prior items mentioned will be mentioned again here and there are other things that have not already been covered that deserve mention to further the case for this structure. There are really three “other things” that can be brought up to help solidify this structure as being among the world’s greatest and most amazing. The first is the renewable and sustainable nature of the building. The second are the architectural tricks and tactics that were used to better the structure. Finally, there are the technical innovations included in the building. These three general tactics have been mentioned in passing over the course of this report but they will be firmly and more specifically recounted in this section. As for the technical innovations, there are elevators in the building that are among the world’s fastest. The elevators in the building were designed by Mitsubishi Electric and they go over forty miles per hour. A total of 106 elevators litter the building. The tallest of those elevators is actually the tallest in the world, even taller than any of the elevators contained within the aforementioned world’s tallest building in Dubai. As far as sustainability goes, the design and structure of the building will lead to a grand total of less than 34,000 metric tons less waste being consumed and used every year. This is a huge part of the reason why the building was able to gain the LEED Gold Certification and what made the building a three star-rated building by China Green. The building is made in a way that allows a lot of natural light inside. This negates or reduces the need for electrically-fed lighting in many cases. The double faAade of the building serves as an insulating blanket for the tower. This saves energy as well. As noted before, about a third of the space in the building is green space and this cools the grounds quite well. Finally, the exterior lighting of the building is powered by nearly three hundred wind turbines that are built into the faAade. This serves as a way for the building to generate its own power rather than relying on the power grids of China’s electrical system. These facilities are numerous and substantial in that the 270 generators in question are on the 124th floor. This would make them 570 meters high. These are the world’s highest wind generators as of this moment.

The building was manufactured in a way that minimized the amount of materials that were need. For example, the glass faAade just mentioned required fourteen percent less materials than what an equivalent square building would use. This leads to an overall cost of $58 million USD less than what would be required if the building was one of the standard shapes like a rectangle, a square or a triangle. The aforementioned power generation completed by the building’s own internal facilities is substantial. The system is a 2,130 kilowatt hour natural gas-fired cogeneration system. This will provide electricity and heat energy for the lower zone areas. A total of forty-three different sustainable technologies are used within the building’s structure every day and every second. The building twists a total of 120 degrees as it goes from the bottom to the top, which is the reason behind the lesser amount of materials needed, per the above. Again, the building is not a standard square- or rectangular-shaped building. The building literally twists as it goes higher and higher.

Further, a huge part of the reason that the building can sustain and facilitate so many different uses is that it is zoned as one gets higher and higher. There are nine zones in total and there are about twelve to fifteen zones in total. The first zone at the bottom is retail and conference space. The second through sixth zones are all office space. The seventh zone is the aforementioned hotel section of the structure. The eighth zone is hotel and boutique office space. Finally, zone nine is firmly reserved for observation purposes so that people can see the view created by how high the building goes versus how the building is constructed when it comes to the same. The different zones of the structure are separated by a total of eight structuring floors in between. The central core of the building is made of concrete whereas the super columns are composite structures that steel sections that are then encased in concrete. Another amazing thing about the building is that a lot of its energy, if it is not created by the building itself, is drawn from the earth itself as it is geothermal in nature. The gardens that are in the faAade area create a thermal buffer zone that increases air quality. The rain water that falls onto the different collection areas of the building are used to supplement and assist with the air conditioning units that the building has. As far as parks go, even a public park is in the works when it comes to what the building will offer.


All in all, it is clear that the Shanghai Tower is a technological, architectural and sustainability marvel. The tools and technologies that were used were all top-notch and there was also special attention paid to help offset the space and energy used by the building through maximizing the space that is used as well as creating the building’s own energy and otherwise being as efficient and modern as possible. While there will surely be taller buildings with more dazzling technologies and tricks, this is the natural order of things as this just happens more and more with time. There was a time that the Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois, United States was one of the biggest marvels but time and the evolution of technology has obviously changed that. Further, the Shanghai Tower made heavy use of both corporate personnel and designers, at least in part, from outside of China. Countries like the United States, Australia or many in Western Europe may focus on their own buildings that try to supplant this one. However, it is clear that in terms of skyscrapers, this building and the building in Dubai are among the current top technological and/or sustainability marvels. China could have just simply built a building taller than the one in Dubai or the other places with taller buildings. They came up short with Dubai but they blow away just about any other building in existence with the other things that have been done and that continue to be done.


Fung, E., & Jie, Y. (2013, August 3). As Shanghai Tower Opens, Will Tenants Come?. Wall

Street Journal – Eastern Edition. p. B3.

Gensler. (2016). Gensler Design Update — Shanghai Tower. Gensler Design Update. Retrieved 9

June 2016, from

Gonchar, J. (2015). Thick-Skinned. Architectural Record, 203(3), 126.

Jiang, H. J., Lu, X. L., Liu, X. J., & He, L. S. (2014). Performance-Based Seismic Design

Principles and Structural Analysis of Shanghai Tower. Advances In Structural

Engineering, 17(4), 513-528. doi:10.1260/1369-4332.17.4.513

Shanghai Tower. (2016). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1.

Structures & Talents. (2016). Shanghai Tower: A Case Study. Structures & Talents. Retrieved 9

June 2016, from

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