ChengduPhoto: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

Skyscraper heights are rising so significantly that the word “supertall,” used to describe buildings of at least 984 feet in height, at times seems inadequate when trying to capture what is being built today.

One World Trade Center rises 1,776 feet into the sky. West 57th Street is becoming a corridor for incredible skyscraper heights with Nordstrom Tower set to reach 1,775 feet.

In fact, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has now adopted the term “megatall” to describe buildings over 1,969 feet (over 600 meters) tall.

As you would expect, supertall and megatall skyscrapers require serious structural engineering. Wired reporter Sophia Chen recently published a feature exploring this topic focusing on the 1,535-foot Chengdu Tower, which is set to become China’s fourth tallest skyscraper.

Chengdu Tower riffs on the exoskeleton architectural technique to marry design with engineering.

“In addition to the concrete core and steel frames that make up the interior skeleton of many modern skyscrapers, the Chengdu Tower has an exoskeleton—a weight-bearing structure constructed on the outside of the building,” wrote Chen.

Dennis Poon, a structural engineer who led the tower’s engineering design, explained how the exoskeleton was created.

“You basically put a big ‘X’ on the building… It’s an efficient structural system because you use the entire width of the building to resist wind,” he said.

This results in a skyscraper that is not only sturdy, but visually appealing. The exoskeleton becomes a design feature — while being a cost-effective way to ensure stability.

The Tower Verre in New York will employ the same exoskeleton technique and is scheduled for completion in 2018. Jean Nouvel, the project’s architect, is also behind the city’s 53W53, another exoskeleton structure that will rise to 82 stories.

For more skyscraper talk, check out BuzzBuzzHome’s infographic highlighting the tallest residential buildings in New York City.

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