The design tricks that keep skyscrapers from swaying

This is a hole on top of the Shanghai World
Financial Center. This is a 660-ton steel ball hanging inside
of Taipei 101. And these are massive clockwise balconies
on the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building ever made. These design choices might seem like gimmicks
to give these skyscrapers their iconic looks. But behind each feature is a brilliant engineering
trick designed to one thing: Confuse the wind. Wind can cause a bunch of issues for buildings:
broken windows, structural damage, and discomfort for the people inside. And today’s super-skinny skyscrapers have
to deal with a particular wind-induced phenomenon called vortex shedding. This happens when wind flowing past a building
creates vortices, strong swirls of air that magnify the damaging effects of wind. In low winds, these vortices cancel each other
out. But in higher winds, they create alternating
low pressure zones that make the building rock back and forth. As the wind speed increases, so does the intensity
of the back and forth movement. Every object also has its own natural sway
frequency and when that matches with the frequency
of vortex shedding, it creates a dramatic spike in the intensity of swaying. On the top floors of a high rise, that kind
of swaying can be nauseating, plus it can damage the integrity of the building. But architects have an arsenal of tricks to
reduce movement. The first one? Tapering. The higher up you build, the stronger the
wind force gets. So to reduce surface area where the wind is
stronger, designers can simply make a building skinnier as it gets taller. They can do that with tapering — like The
Shard in London or with periodic setbacks, like the
Willis Tower in Chicago. Then, designers can soften edges. Hard edges aren’t good on wind, so you’ll
often see skyscrapers with round corners. But architects can achieve a similar effect
with small cutouts from the edges. Take Taipei 101, for example. The building was originally designed with
square corners, but when a scale model was tested in a wind
tunnel, the designers saw a lot of swaying. Here are the results after designers added
sawtooth corners. They reduced movement by 25 percent. The next option is pretty simple. You can
just open it up with holes. Skyscrapers like Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom
Centre and Shanghai’s World Financial Center do this with a single gap up top, allowing
wind to pass right through where it’s blowing the strongest. But 432 Park Avenue in New York achieves this
effect with several double-floor cutouts that allow wind to pass through along the length
of the entire tower. There’s also twisting. This wind resistance technique makes for some
of the most stunning skylines today. Dramatic spirals redirect the wind, guiding
it upward and off of the building. That’s the same wind resistance trick used
by some industrial chimneys and car antennas. Corkscrew shapes like this were impossible
to build until fairly recently, thanks to advancements in software and material science. And they’re also promising from a sustainability
perspective. During the design process on the Shanghai
Tower, for example, adding the iconic twist reduced the wind load by 24 percent, saving
developers $58 million in structural material. Finally, there’s the technique so good it’s
invisible: damping. Dampers are mechanisms designed to absorb
the energy from a building’s movement, counteracting the effect of the wind. Skyscrapers do this in two major ways. First are slosh tanks: these are containers
filled with several tons of water. The water sloshes back and forth, and its
weight displacement helps keep the building from swaying. Second are tuned mass dampers: massive weights
suspended in the middle of a building. These were traditionally hidden away in building
design, placed on empty floors along with other technical equipment. But they don’t have to be. Taipei 101’s
tuned mass damper has been a popular tourist attraction since it opened in 2004. They even have a mascot for it: Damper Baby. It’s a little weird. These shapes, holes, and counterweights form
a secret design language hidden inside of our skylines. And as more people move out of rural areas
and into urban ones, skyscrapers will keep getting taller and
skinnier. These technologies are what’s making that
future possible and letting us keep building into the sky. Thank you so much for watching, if you haven’t already heard we’ve launched a membership program with YouTube called the Vox Video Lab. It’s the best way to support our work and interact with us more, and get access to exclusive content. To become a member, head over to


  • Vox

    Hi everyone, the vertical aspect used in this video was intentional. We thought it might be an interesting way to frame this piece, since it's specifically about skyscrapers.

    We understand a vertical aspect ratio isn't for everyone — don't worry, it's not something we'll be doing often. But it's important to us that we keep experimenting on our channel, so that we can keep pushing our work forward. This was a case where we took a risk by trying something new, so thanks for bearing with us and for leaving your feedback.

    And thanks for watching our videos! 🌻

  • Angel Macias

    1:39 Nice try buddy but it’s Sears Tower.

  • Grace Hopps

    that’s why i love dc: no skyscrapers

  • arun kumar

    Pundamar iruku

  • Zach Walker

    "As more people move out of rural areas and in to urban ones" why… WHY… why would people willingly do this to themselves?

  • Askejm

    Finally my iPad aspect ratio came into use

  • Flykope

    1:38 I think you know why I’m mad, just call it The Sears Tower

  • That Potato

    1:37 AHEM

    It’s SEARS tower

  • - Add 694

    That intro confused me 0:25

  • Manoj M L

    Better idea would be just to ReMoVe ThE aIr

  • Richard Samuelson

    Vertical aspect ratio = a bunch of usable screen real estate wasted + looks incredibly off.

  • Kevin Swartz

    I’m a structural engineer, and I can honestly say that everything in this video is DEAD WRONG


    I thought that the Shanghai tower hole was there to let the dragons go through😂

  • duck duck

    I hear a plane…

  • Mc Water

    Use metal

  • John Dela Cruz

    we need more portrait video

  • Dario Birindelli


  • Xavier Peypoch

    You know, flipping my Huawei, isn't such a feat…

  • Ana Moarry

    This videos always amaze me. They are so damm interesting

  • VexWard

    Can the wind push this video out of portrait mode?

  • Ansh Soni

    Making this a vertical video was actually really smart

  • Patrick McNichols

    *1:40 Sears tower you mook

  • OutOfSight123

    Whoever made the audio for this video needs to get another job…

  • Cornel du Toit

    well i don't like the fact that people are now moving in to cites cuz we need farms or we as a world will run out of food

  • Casper Bengtsson

    Plz no square footage on YouTube Instagram is ok but plz don't do it on YouTube. I beg you

  • Team O_X

    shot in Iphone X….Upright….

  • Ziad Tariq

    While swayed with the paper building

  • arvien claveria

    it is not design engineering if it's design, It's ARCHITECTURE

  • Daniel Moyseyev

    The x-axis at 3:48 …

  • JasonSPD

    They also protect skylines in urban planning and add feng shui

  • Jay Lew

    Hmm never heard of this Willis tower you speak of. Next time use a renown building that's held close to people hearts like the Sears Tower. Now that's a building, same with Comiskey Park

  • Zesty

    Bruh Vox ain’t learn nothing from people always hating on videos recorded on vertical.🤦‍♂️

  • JadenPlays XD

    Wind be like “IM I a joke to you”

  • Mikela Munoz

    I actually thing it was a genius idea to use the vertical radio for the topic of skyscrapers. Great job Vox!

  • Brandon Stennett

    Hey ,favor could you guys explain the NO BAIL SWEDEN SITUATION ? would help us ASAP.

  • kadyxx

    No one:
    Vox: hi guys welcome to my igtv

  • JP

    Engineers: design things

    Wind: am I a joke to you

  • Rix Morales

    The Tower of Babylon left the chat

  • Oliver Engholm

    does that mean I go to heaven if I go to the heighest building?

  • Aditya P

    I love that there are creators taking advantage of vertical video based on the content.

  • Naman paul

    We need more architecture videos.

  • Jadey

    Well my country doesn't exist after mh370 disappeared

  • Escargot Gras

    Wind: confused
    hurts itself in its confusion

  • Steve Jobs

    [sad civil engineer noise]

  • Jenna Triorik

    How about the 310 metres pixelated tower in Bangkok? That design is interesting…


    X evitar del gb*ddoeie ID jsi2iee÷*/&$€÷€

  • Diamondcookie Girl

    So i guess……from now on,we should say, space’ the limit instead of skys the limit….

  • Enrique Lozano

    would not give architects the excessive credit engineers are given in the comments

  • Μαρία Π.

    great video!!!

  • Eduard valentin Koos

    If they used bedrock in building's hight won't be a problem

  • Alternate Account

    want happens if we do this all in 1 tower

  • rachelledeleon

    Swaying buildings mean theyre strong

  • Dharun R

    Swae lee is now offended

  • Rome Blanchard

    the size of the video is making me uncomfortable

  • Hamza H

    2:39 RajvoSa

  • qwerty uiop

    imagine having a mascot for a giant metal ball that is used to stop swaying in a tall skyscraper

  • I do Rimjobs

    the video is much better when play at .75

  • M D

    I actually like the vertical aspect

  • Richard Goed

    They gonna be banned for scamming the winds

  • majik

    not a soul:
    vox: confuse the wind

  • Ajla Xo

    2:39 my Bosnian beauty🇧🇦

  • Chyniz Mahss

    Earthquake: aM i A jOke To yOu?

  • iQuickest

    Architects mainly design, then engineers draw the plans and everythig you need, then hard working people often immigrants do all the building, dry wall, and painting, with union workers doing electricity and plumbing and hvacs

  • theelectro gamer

    bruh that is paper glued to a table thats not a skyscraper made out of concrete 0:55

  • Lisset Miramontes

    Well is a job that eng. And arch. do together

  • Aniket Desai

    Nice vedio

  • Skeleton Masher

    They are never gonna go to space because of the 255 height limit

  • Farah Tanya

    I loved the vertical aspect of this video

  • Rifan Dhinda

    Skyscrapers will get taller but what about roads? It's still in 2d space. What's the solution for that?

  • Avi Toor

    Be honest, the vertical video is only because they are trying use the same videos on other platforms such as Instagram.

  • BENZYT // benzmcpe1234

    Do this so it will reduce the s w a n g

  • Leonardo Sotelo

    That's a funny way of saying Sears tower

  • Gabb Malabor

    Do architects compute rigid/fluid mechanics?

  • Dr. Ketchup

    Height limit for building is 256 blocks

  • True - Letters 壊れた {LDR}

    Building is w Av y :

    Wind: confused screaming

  • Melanie

    3:40 oh god he's so hot

  • Shawn Michael

    U said as people “move from rural to urban” its urban to rural look at most major cities in North America

  • Lodemé Carp

    Hi darling

  • Sam Lutfi

    It's not architects it's peanut butter

  • Artem Kuznetsov

    2:09 this building looks like my highlighter pen

  • Bitten_By_Frost

    I'll still feel like the Empire State Building will fall over with too much wind when I am at the observatory…

  • GG SAY

    what is wrong with editing, why it is vertical?

  • Ciaran Condron

    Just wait until they reach the world build limit

  • Bryce Perkins

    I must say that although I appreciate the desire for educating your viewers on some of the unknown aspects of building design, I am disappointed that the credit for this is given to the architects. Although architects do provide the vision for the overall look of the building, it is the structural engineer who determines the wind forces and designs the systems that control the performance of the structure. In addition, the dampening systems discussed in the video are mainly used to resist movement associated with seismic forces, not wind.

  • LP Jones

    Get a different mic, whatever one you're using on this one sounds awful.

  • Godzilla, The Average Gamer

    -Engineer Has Drilled Holes In The Building

    -Engineer Has Twisted The Building

    -Engineer Has Placed A Pendulum In The Building

    -Wind Is Confused

    -Wind Has Left [Disconnected]

  • Loli Saikou

    I’m on Architecture school and I can verify that this is indeed…


  • Ricardo Ayala

    baby elon??

  • Matthew McCabe

    0:23 one of the greatest statements ever stated

    “Confuse the wind”

  • Jason Signor

    Damper baby? 👶 lol. Ok. wow. 🤔

  • Royal Assassin

    I've heard many people like him who always give credit to "only" architects rather than the whole team for the design of the structure

  • Ioannis Tzovaris

    do you really have to talk so fast?

  • Jonas Brown

    stop saying shanghai so white it’s awful

  • Legendary Derp duck

    So smoothed edges, damping, holes?, twirling…I think I’m ready to build a stable structure with my school suplies

  • Legendary Derp duck

    If the building is twirled and has a hole at the top, will it be better or worse?

  • JUB Gaming

    I like how you say confuse the winds

  • 1000 subs with no vids?

    Imagine having a mascot for a heavy ball

  • JackieFriday

    Buildings that don’t sway are more vulnerable towards earthquakes

  • rob1811

    What did the World Trade Center use before 9/11?

  • Deruzzi

    I hope the ball doesn’t drop


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