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Flight of the Skyscraper


PUBLISHED: June 18, 2014

Carl Sandburg wrote, “By day the skyscraper looms in the smoke and sun and has a soul.” While a skyscraper’s soul may be in question, skyscrapers definitely move or are buffeted by winds and other loads in the city. Since 2001, professors Ahsan Kareem and Tracy Kijewski-Correa have been active in developing sensing and virtual data acquisition technologies and cyber infrastructure to enable full-scale, in-situ observations of structures in their natural environments. What it amounts to is recording the “health” of a structure in real-time as a building reacts to various loads acting upon it.

These faculty have been executing the first full-scale systematic validation of the performance of tall buildings using three signature skyscrapers in Chicago. Their efforts earned the 2008 State-of-the-Art of Civil Engineering Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Their work has also been showcased in magazines such as Engineering News Record, ASCE’s Civil Engineering Magazine, and GPS World. The program has now grown to include signature structures in South Korea, Canada, and Dubai, as well as archival data collected from the infamous Boston Hancock.