Manhattan’s skyscrapers are put through the most extreme tests you can imagine

Developers are happy to lay out costs for testing now, instead of dealing with failures later

TRD New York /
Feb.February 15, 2018 12:00 PM

53 West 53rd Street and a scene from movie “Day After Tomorrow” (Credit: Jean Nouvel and 20th Century Fox)

When developers build supertall towers, they head to a small handful of specialized facilities that pummel building samples with disastrous conditions to make sure they can stand tall.

There are only about three or four facilities in the country that can perform the tests, which simulate hurricane-force winds, rain, heat waves and arctic blasts, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Hines, for example, tested sections for 53 West 53rd Street, the 1,050-foot-tall condominium tower the Houston-based company is developing with Singapore’s Pontiac Land Group and Goldman Sachs.

The Jean Nouvel-designed tower features a tapered structure, criss-cross structural framing on its exterior and 6,000 panels of custom-made, triple-paned glass.

Hines made two mock-ups, which were tested at the Construction Research Laboratory in Miami, which resembles a post-apocalyptic landscape with airplane engines and other tools designed to batter buildings.

“It’s like a doctor wanting to test a human being by putting together a mock-up with one ear, one nose and one elbow,” said George Dotzler, the lab’s director.

The testing cost $150,000, and while municipal law requires some testing, most developers figure the price is nothing compared the cost of damage in an actual emergency.

Bizzi & Partners Development, which is building 125 Greenwich Street, paid about $210,000 to create a mock-up of the building, and another $163,000 for the testing. [WSJ]Rich Bockmann

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