How old can skyscrapers get?

Before Saudi and Egyptian terrorists destroyed the Twin towers, I had always wondered how big of a mess it would be to demolish a downtown skyscraper. Unfortunately, we now know.

But I’m wondering what the expected lifespan of a skyscraper is anyway?

I mean, when they started building 50+ story buildings in cramped downtown spaces, how did they think they could demolish it (one day) without making a huge mess? Did they just assume that future technologies would make it easier.

They figured the skyscraper would last long enough that they would be dead before the question came up.

Most modern skyscrapers are in fact built with their future demolition in mind. You can’t just blow up a giant skyscraper in a dense city like NYC, but they can be taken apart, often with the help of lots of small explosions instead of one big one.

The Empire State Building was built in the 1930s as I recall. I don’t see it going away any time soon.

I don’t believe any buildings of any significant size are just “blown up”; they are imploded (as friedo probably already knows) by precision charges placed by demolition engineers. There’s plenty of photographic and video archives of buildings being imploded on the web; see Google.

Imploding buildings is not allowed in NYC, so any demolition needs to be done the old fashioned way (i.e. no explosives), in essence, brick by brick.

Oh, and to get slightly back on topic. the Flatiron Building in NYC, considered the oldest extant skyscraper in NYC (although at only 285 feet/87 meters, it’s relatively unassuming) is 100 years old this year, and since it’s a NYC landmark, will probably be standing for the forseeable future. As long as buildings are maintained properly they should stand for a long, long time.

The Singer Tower is reckoned to be the tallest building ever benignly demolished (in 1968). It was right across Church Street from the WTC site, in a pretty built-up area. I’ve never looked for the details on how it was actually taken apart. Must not have been by implosion, or there’d surely be a famous film of it.

Does anybody know how the Singer Building in New York was brought down? According to this page, it was the tallest building ever demolished, at 612 ft.

Was it the ol’ wrecking ball? In 1968 I doubt that implosion was used, but that is just a WAG. For the record, the Singer Building stood for 60 years.

1 minute is close enough to be a simul-post isn’t it?

There was a building in downtown Cleveland demolished when I was a kid. Imploded, by trained demolishions guys. The extent of the “big mess” was a dust cloud that left everything a bit gray until the next rain.

There’s a big difference between trained engineers taking their time to precisely place and time charges to bring a building down in a safe manner, and a bunch of lunatics crashing planes into the sides of buildings and waiting to see what happens.

There is? Damn. There goes my business plan.

before the attacks on the WTC i saw a video on the WTC and it said that the towers with regular maintance could stand as long as the pyrmids. The structural elements were protected inside the building from weather – outside members could be replaced.

A good book on the subject is UNBUILDING by David Macaulay. {isbn 0-395-29757-6) published in 1980. This deals with how you would go about dismantling the Empire State Building.

The wtc center could have been taken down easily by deconstructing it. It would have taken months, involving lots of workers, cranes, etc.

I figure you’d just break it apart floor by floor, until you got down to about 50-60 floors, then did the implosion thing. But really, it should have lasted a few hundred years, and undoubtably there would have been better building bringing down technologies by then.

Who knows, it would be easily done by today’s technology, and obviously even simpler by technology hundreds of years in the future.’s database gave me this list of the tallest buildings ever demolished.

Even though “skyscraper” is a very undifinitive term, most people would not consider the Flatiron building as the oldest skyscraper in NYC. There are buildings that are older and taller- the Flatiron is just more famous then most. In fact, the building was never even the tallest in the city. As I said, its very difficult to define what exactly a skyscraper is, but I would guess that what most people would consider a skyscraper compared to other buildings in NYC today, that the oldest skyscraper in the city is the Park Row Builing, built 1896-99, 391 feet/119 meters; about “10 stories” taller then the Statue of Liberty.

There is more than one way to skin a cat, or take down a skyscraper. There was a bank building in Atlanta that was demolished in the 1980’s Only about 20 years old too. One of those round ones, like the Columbia Records building in L.A. They demolished the floors from the bottom up. The building was supported by a central core. All but the core was removed from the first floor, then the second, etc. Eventually leading to a mushroom shaped thing. I don’t remember how they got rid of the core, perhaps that was by implosion. Might be a common technique in the future given how many are built around such a core now.

I could never understand why that building had to be demolished. There are large vacant blocks all over that area.

To take a slightly different tack, if skyscrapers are not demolished, how long will they last before collapsing due to structure fatigue and the ravages of the elements?

Will they hold up as well as the pyramids?

How accurate are the SF movie representations?

Given that most skyscrapers are structural steel “skeletons” with the walls and such basically hanging on the skeletons, any load bearing steel which begins to fatigue too much can easily be replaced. Modern skyscrapers are built redundantly so the whole thing doesn’t fall if a single piece of steel fails (or is temporarily removed). Outside walls and such could be replaced as often as you like without really affecting the building. So theoretically a skyscraper could stand as long as you’re willing to maintain it.

But what if no one was around to maintain it?
Say, for example, the city was abandoned after apes developed speech and became the dominant species.
Or the polar icecaps melted submerging Manhattan.

Gotta calm down and stop hyperventilating now.

Anyone remember that old short film that Saturday Night Live used to show? It’s a shot of a city street, with a large, prominent building in the background. In the foreground there is a sign with a big button which says “Warning, Do Not Press This Button,” or something similar.

In an excellent example of live-timing, a goofy-looking guy walks up to the sign, pushes the button, and the building in the background falls down. Then the guy sheepishly wanders away.

It used to be funny. I wonder if that was the Singer Tower…