Do skyscrapers scrape the sky? (1)
This is But Why: a Podcast for Curious Kids from Vermont Public Radio. I'm Jane Lindholm. On this show, we take your questions about the weird, the wacky and the wonderful, and we find interesting people who can help with some answers. Today, we're going to imagine ourselves in a city. Picture yourself standing on a concrete sidewalk. Can you hear the cars going by some are honking their horn. Some are stopped at stoplights. Maybe there are pigeons on the sidewalk cooing. The sun is out, but you are in the shade. What's blocking the sun? A very, very tall building. Start drawing your eyes from the front door up to the first windows then up to the next floor and up and up. And wow, you really have to stretch your head all the way back to see the top of that building. It looks like it goes all the way to the sky. Straining to see the tippy tippy top, you might be wondering.
How do buildings get so tall?
That's six year old Evie from Albany, California. Evie is among the many of you who have sent us questions about very tall buildings. And you want to know both how and also why buildings get so tall. Let's start today with some trivia. Do you know the name of the tallest building in the world? The tallest building in the United States and all of North America is One World Trade Center in New York City. The tallest building in Europe is the Lakhta Center in Russia. The tallest one in Australia is known as Q1 in Queensland. In South America. It's the Grand Tour de Santiago in Chile. Africa has the Carlton Center in South Africa and the tallest building in Asia, the Burj Khalifa is also the tallest building in the entire world. Simon knows that and he sent in this question.
I am five years old. I live in Chicago in Illinois. And my question is, why is the Burj Khalifa so tall?
We thought we'd reach out to an expert to find out a little bit more about this record breaking building.
My name is Isabel I'm six years old and I live in Dubai. The world's tallest building is in Dubai and it is called Burj Khalifa. Burj means tower in Arabic and Khalifa is the name of the ruler of the UAE. I went to the top of Burj Khalifa with my family, we took a super fast lift to the top. From the top we could see the whole of Dubai. We saw all the building the sea, the islands, boats, and even my favorite park! From
the top of Burj Khalifa people on the ground look like small ants. Can I tell you a secret? Dubai is going to build a tower that will be even taller than the Burj Khalifa. Bye.
Bye. Thanks, Isabel. That was such a great description of what it's like to stand at the top of the Burj Khalifa. I especially liked imagining what it was like to ride that super fast lift or elevator up. Seems like that's almost like taking an amusement park ride in and of itself. The Burj Khalifa is interesting for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that it's not just a giant rectangle, its shape was inspired by a desert flower called the spider lily. You can't really see the resemblance between the building and the flower if you're just looking at the Burj Khalifa from the ground. But if you were a bird, or a drone flying above the building, and you look down, you'd notice that it's kind of shaped like a capital Y. Or maybe a fidget spinner. And it's wider at the bottom than the top with various towers rising taller in the center, up to a total height of 2,716 feet. That's 828 meters. I don't know about you, but just thinking about that number of feet or meters doesn't really explain to me how tall the building is. So we asked another friend to give us a different way to think about it.
If you put 450 grownups stacked up on top of each other, that would be the height of the building. I'm Janny Gedeon and I am the president and founder of ArchForKids.
ArchForKids teaches architecture, engineering and urban planning to kids using real life projects. Janny is an architecture educator. And if you're not familiar with the word architecture, here's how Janny explains it.
Architecture is the science of designing buildings, as simple as that. Thinking about what the purpose of you know, what is it used for? What what do I need this to be? What is the function of a space? So the architect is the one who designs that space.
There's more to being an architect than just drawing pictures of buildings. Architects have to consider how people will use the building, what kind of materials will be used in making it, how it will look where it's being built, how it will be designed to withstand earthquakes, and wind and rain and sun. A building like the Burj Khalifa, for example, has apartments, a hotel, office space, and a number of observation decks. Janny thinks about this kind of stuff all the time. And as we said, she works with kids. So we thought she'd be a great guide to help us answer your questions about tall buildings, or as we sometimes call them in English skyscrapers.
I'm Axl. I live in Auburn, Illinois. I'm four. My question is, do skyscrapers scrape skies?
Axl wants to know, do skyscrapers scrape the sky?
Well, that's a very good question. We say it's scrapes the sky because that's what we can see as far as we can see, but there's really nothing to scrape because you cannot really touch the sky. So no matter how far up you go, you cannot touch it. So when we look, it's our perception of how tall this building is compared to where we are located. Because when we see a tall building, we are really minute really small compared to that building. So when we looking up, we feel that it is touching the sky.
But you're not like in outer space. If you go to the top of the tallest building?
Not at all. And you can still breathe, exactly. You're not floating or anything. So it's just the perception.
Hi, there. My name is Yuma, and I'm five years old. And I live in El Paso, Texas, and I visit my grandparents in New York City every summer. My question is why are building so tall in the city?
What's the deal with tall buildings in cities?
Well, a lot of people want to live in cities, a lot of people want to work and have fun, go to the theater to the movies, and so on. And there's not a lot of space on the ground to build horizontally. So then they have to just like go vertically instead. So then to accommodate all these people who want to come to the city. And so just like the footing of the space that that the building takes is not that big. So therefore you have to go up. And then I mean footing is just like if you imagine you standing up so your foot, your footprint is really your feet, the size of your feet, that's the space that you that you take on the ground. So the same thing with the buildings is just like the little square, the little rectangle that is on the ground that touches the ground, we cannot really elongate it on the horizontal plane. So therefore we have to go up to accommodate more people. And also with Manhattan, the rock that Manhattan is built on is called a schist. And then the schist is such a hard rock. So then when you go deep down to make the foundation of the building, this is a strong rock. So then that allows more buildings to go up because it's stronger, and your foundation is can hold it better.
Well, that's interesting, too. Because what you're saying is it it really matters what's underneath the soil, if you're going to build any kind of building, right, so you have to think not just about how tall you can build it or how much space you have on the ground, but what's underneath the ground.
Exactly. Because, because sometimes you can go as far as bedrock, but sometimes you don't because the soil is so tight. So then you can actually bring your foundation down and it will hold it together. But if you can go down to bedrock, that's even better.
You can't just build a skyscraper wherever you want. There are certain places where the ground underneath makes it easier or harder to build a really tall building. There are also rules that some cities or towns make about how tall a building is allowed to be and where those tall buildings can be within the city or town limits. Another thing to keep in mind is, is there a need for a tall building with lots of space? You might notice that there are lots of tall buildings in New York City where their grandparents live, and maybe they're aren't so many tall buildings in Yuma's town. The town where I live in Vermont is very rural, there aren't many people and there is a lot of land. So there's no need to build tall buildings. So that's another reason why some places have lots of tall buildings and other places don't, it depends a lot on how many people want to fit in a small amount of space. Building up can be the best way to fit more people in. Okay, so let's say you do want to build a skyscraper. What do you actually have to do to get it made?
Hi, my name is Billy and I am six and a half. And I am from Wilmington, Massachusetts.
Hi, my name is Luca. I live in San Francisco. And I'd like to know how buildings are made. And I'm six years old.
Buildings, it's really, it's a complicated process. So first you have, you have to have a need for it. And and there is the owner, which in tall buildings usually is a developer. And they buy the site, and then they hire the architect to do the planning of you know, the layout of that building. It's based on the function, which means that is it going to be a commercial building? Is it going to be a residential building? Is it going to be entertainment? So then all that is is thought through by the architect and then the architect, along with the engineer would think about, okay, would my design actually stand up, what the measurements and then the specifications, or what we do is going to make it stand up. So that's a structural engineer, then the mechanical engineers get a chance to think about where the heating and the cooling is going to happen, then you have the electrical engineer, we think about where the wiring for all that is going to happen. And then when all these are put together, and everybody comes together, you have the contractor who comes in and start building the structure. So architects, engineers, they all have to work together to make that happen. It's a long process. It can take a few years to actually build a building from design to construction.
That's kind of cool. Because you know, if you're a kid who likes different parts of what it sounds like to build a building, you could get involved at any level, you could be designing it like an architect, or you could if you really like electricity and figuring out how electricity works, you could be figuring out the electrical wiring for a big building, or the plumbing. Maybe you really like toilets.