What Lies Beneath: How the Ground Impacts Tall Towers Around the World

Session: E: Structural Challenges: Designing for Endurance

Seth MartinProject image

Seth Martin
Senior Project Manager, Langan Engineering
New York City

This presentation “goes underground” below some of the world’s tallest towers, showcasing how their foundations were designed around a variety of complex subsurface conditions. The subject towers include: One Vanderbilt, New York City; supertall and megatall towers in Kuala Lumpur; and Jeddah Tower, in Saudi Arabia.

One Vanderbilt, a 427-meter office tower adjacent to New York City’s landmark Grand Central Terminal, has a complex subsurface condition, as it interfaces with active subway tunnels and critical infrastructure. The tower is founded on shallow foundations on Manhattan bedrock about 15 meters below street level.

Kuala Lumpur's Central Park, home to the Petronas Towers, will include several towers ranging from 300 to 700 meters tall. The foundation systems for these towers are piled rafts, which consist of a reinforced concrete mat over a field of large-diameter piles extending up to 125 meters below grade. The towers are founded in erratic, deep limestone profiles with underground cliffs and pinnacles as much as 50 meters tall. The towers are also surrounded by critical infrastructure, adjacent to 25-meter-deep basement excavations.

Finally, the Jeddah Tower, designed to rise 1,000 meters into the Arabian sky, rests on a field of large-diameter piles extending 45 to 105 meters below grade. The ground below the tower consists of a complex sequence of soil and soft rock layers that required extensive geotechnical investigations and rigorous soil-structure interaction analyses.