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Constucting the Tallest Tower :The Empire State Building

written by: Raunekk•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 11/27/2009

Very few people know that Empire State Building was built in a record time of thirteen months, a fact too hard to believe. This civil engineering wonder is an amazing example of planning and engineering intelligence. Find out more about its construction process in the article inside.

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    The Empire State Building is one of the tallest buildings in the world. With a hundred and two stories, the Empire State Building stood as the tallest building in the world for forty years.

    The construction of the building was completed in just thirteen months, starting in 1930 and finishing in May, 1931. The 448 meters long building is the creation of architects Shreve, Lamb and Harmon Associates. The Empire state building remained as the tallest building until the first tower of the World Trade Center was completed in 1970. Presently it is the third tallest building in the world.

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    Designing the Tallest Tower

    The thought of designing the world’s tallest building first came to a General Motor’s Executive who wanted to construct a building higher than the Chrysler building, the world’s tallest building at that time. He hired architects Shreve, Lamb and Harmon and gave them a strict deadline of a year and a half to complete the building.The design plan of the Empire State building was changed and modified almost sixteen times during the construction process. Around three thousand workers worked day and night, including Sundays and holidays, to construct the tallest building in record time.

    The construction of the building required around 60,000 tons of steel, 200,000 cubic feet of Indiana limestone, ten million bricks, and 730 tons of aluminum and steel. For the construction process, the basic steel frame construction technique was decided. 3D grids of steel columns and beams were built and constructed throughout the structure. In order to save time, the 3D steel framework was prefabricated at a different place and then sent to the construction site. All the sections were made of similar sizes within necessary tolerances so that the frames just had to be bolted or riveted together on site. It is said that the steel frames were manufactured at various mills around the city and transported to the site within three days. Once the steel framework was erected, an outer skin of stone was given to it.

    The building was constructed on a strong concrete base that acts as the foundation. The excavation for the land just took two months and the construction of the building started right after that. It was quite an arduous and impossible task because there was already a building, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, standing at the site where the construction work was supposed to be done. To make the process faster, a railway was also constructed at the site for moving the materials more efficiently. The building was completed three months prior to its schedule.

    NYC-EmpireStateBuilding empire-state-building- construction 

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    Special Features

    The Empire State Building comprises 85 stories for commercial use. The 86th floor accommodates an observation deck that provides a 360-degree view of New York City. There is another observation deck on the 102nd floor, however it is enclosed and smaller than the 86th one.

    The rest of sixteen stories together form an Art Deco tower with an observatory located at the hundred and second floor. At the topmost position of the building there is a lightening rod. The floodlights on the lightening rods lights up the whole surrounding area in different colors. There are in total 73 elevators and 1860 steps in the building. At the top, the building houses several broadcasting stations, making it resemble a transmitter tower.

    Ironically, the construction of the building took place at the time of one of the greatest depressions of American history. After the destruction of the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building once again became the tallest building in New York.


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