Shanghai Tower in Shanghai, China. Photos courtesy The Shanghai Tower Construction & Development Company.



Thornton Tomasetti provided structural engineering and curtain wall peer review services for one of the world’s most distinctive and innovative supertall buildings. At 632 meters, in 2015 Shanghai Tower became China’s tallest building and the second tallest building in the world. The mixed-use development comprises 380,000 square meters and includes Class A office space, retail, a luxury hotel, 2,200-seat arena, and connections to the Shanghai Metro and three floors of below-grade parking. It also features the world’s highest non-enclosed observation deck.

Creative, yet cost-effective
Thornton Tomasetti engineered a simple, safe and cost-effective structural system that enables a creative architectural form. The tower features a twisting triangular form with a façade that curves 120 degrees from its base. Its structural system consists of a 90-by-90-foot concrete core connected to a system of outriggers and super columns supported on 1,079 concrete and steel bore piles driven deep into ground. The outrigger trusses and super columns derive stiffness from the concrete inner building, comprising an effective system for resisting wind and seismic loads for supertall buildings. Working with the architect, we refined the tower’s form and reduced building wind loads by 24 percent, which resulted in a lighter structure and reduced material cost.

Tall and Green
The project incorporates the latest sustainable technologies, including wind turbines and solar panels as renewable energy sources to achieve a low carbon footprint. The project will seek LEED Gold certification by the China Green Building Council (in association with the USGBC) and a China Green Building Three Star rating.

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Materials & Systems

Curtain Wall

Our façade engineering teams advise clients on the best way to develop both conventional and innovative façade systems, applying our knowledge of structures, glazing technology, mechanical shade systems and thermal behavior. We provide design, detailing and engineering support for enclosures of any shape or size, from minimalist to high-tech. We also provide expertise in safety and security glazing, along with glass frits and reflective coatings.

Materials & Systems

Double Skin

The double-skin façade has come to represent the ultimate in passive energy performance. Used primarily in Europe in the past, double skin is now being adopted worldwide for its ability to provide controlled natural ventilation, excellent solar control and high thermal performance – leading to substantial energy savings over time. Our building physics expertise and our experience with glazed façades enable us to provide design guidance to clients who wish to maximize energy performance by using a double skin.

Specialized Expertise

Computational Analysis

While the range of shapes and forms that can be designed with modern modeling tools is almost limitless, geometric discipline is still essential for budget control. When forms are still in flux, the design team can use our proprietary tools to interactively study multiple geometric options and establish optimized shapes for structural frames and building surfaces, along with related systems.

Parametric modeling applies parameters such as materials, dimensions or performance criteria to define elements or element categories within a model. Once entered, they can be altered, individually or in combination, to explore and easily incorporate design changes. These 3D models contain intelligent information and can serve as deliverables, or they can be used to generate 2D drawings. Parametric models improve documentation speed and quality, enhance visualization, quickly perform geometry-based analytical tasks and easily calculate material quantities.

Generative modeling uses scripts – instead of direct input – to generate elements, providing even greater flexibility in iterating and testing many options. It allows architects, engineers and other project stakeholders to work together to quickly evaluate any number of concepts and variations.

Specialized Expertise

Tall & Supertall

For decades, our engineers have been pioneers in systems for tall and supertall buildings. From the development of the stressed-tube skin system in the 1980s to our unique design for Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower – slated to be the world’s tallest building when it’s completed – we have explored new ways to improve upon tall building design and construction.

In recent years, towers have become taller and more visually exciting, creating new structural challenges. Our knowledge and experience, augmented by leading-edge analytical and design tools, are invaluable in providing designs that are safe, comfortable, economical, sustainable and constructable.

With a portfolio that includes three previous “world’s tallest” buildings and more than 100 other high-rises, Thornton Tomasetti has unparalleled experience in tall and supertall building design around the world.

Specialized Expertise

Vibration Analysis

Successfully engineered buildings both resist anticipated loads and maintain comfortable and functional conditions for occupants. Vibrations from walking, dancing, exercising, synchronous cheering, operating mechanical equipment, construction activities and wind gusts can generate motion that disturbs building occupants or disrupts sensitive operations. We use analysis and monitoring to identify vibration sources and determine methods to reduce or eliminate undesirable effects. We have performed vibration analyses in commercial and residential high-rise buildings, laboratories and industrial buildings, stadium grandstands, operable roofs and more.