Design Details of the World’s Tallest “Megatall” Building

Gartner Wise in Shanghai

In my last blog entry, I introduced my vision of Gartner Wise Tower—a theoretical megatall building designed first and foremost with safety and sustainability in mind. Today I’ll revisit this idea in greater detail, describing the inner-workings of its construction.


Safety and security are major parts of any super tall project, and I designed this building to be as safe as possible. Each floor is divided into 4 smoke and fire safe quadrants, and the exterior skin has two layers for energy efficiency and added fire safety.

The elevators accommodate the usual exiting capacity, but extra stairs and unique exterior ‘elevators’ can be called for maintenance AND rescue. Helicopter landing areas (plural) are there for immediate rescue and first aid. Naturally, the lobbies are placed away from the tower between each quadrant for safety reasons, and parking is not located under the building itself. Any person or object allowed to enter the building would need to be secured first.


The building is entirely green and based on passive energy technology. An exterior skin has two layers that meet energy R-12 to R-20, (with solar PV on exterior layer), and can be either all glass or a mix with metal (e.g. stainless steel). The exterior curtain wall has a sacrificial glass layer so that it can be replaced in 25 to 50 years without disturbing future clients. This alone guarantees a longer life for the building as a whole, giving it better long-term investment value.

8 exterior vertical turbines at three levels harness wind all along the vertical façade, and a few more at the top can be added depending on final location and height beyond 3500 feet (to about 4000′). I envision the most advanced energy-generating turbines at the time of building will be placed at the top.

It has possibly 4 vertical inner chimney turbines at low, middle and high towers separately so that the height is utilized rather than wasted. Inner ten-story atriums are conditioned as units, and then fed to users as pre-conditioned air. This way, the local units are smaller and need less energy to cool or heat a localized special section. Sophisticated local removal of computer and other high-energy waste heat is planned as well.

In addition, a mini nuclear plant that is now a reality would be used to accomodate the unavoidable elevator usage load, as well as the entire building load.

The advances in cooling and heating naturally help, but the passive standard reduces energy needs by 50 to 95%, and thus the manageability of this issue is greatly improved and the tenant made far more comfortable than they would be in a standard Class A office tower!

Floor Plate Layout

Floor plates should be flexible with high floors to ceilings, thereby offering a powerful range of possibilities for users. The upper floors have smaller glass-to-core dimensions, and are thus more suited to residential and smaller boutique offices rather than larger corporations. Sky atriums in the upper floors would also provide respite and recreation without having to travel to city streets. Depending on locality, sky gardens are also possible for local organic produce.

Building Image

The height is striking, but the building itself has soft features from slight undulations in each of the three low/mid/high sections, providing a feeling of height with immense vertical clarity.

Street Level

At street level, a band of high-intensity retail is most natural for city center usage. The dimensions would be dictated by available land, but between 60 and 100′ in depth, and three stories in height on average. This provides an element of security and privacy, as the tower itself is situated in its own large landscaped courtyard space.

Inner Structure

The inner ring, a double cell at the lowest and middle level, is laid out in a concept similar to the Eiffel tower, where each quadrant is a leg to the tower. The inner ring also provides fire and other safety features, protecting the longest-travelling elevators and sky lobbies. The concept is designed to free the usable areas with maximum open space.

Stay tuned – in my third and final post in this series I’ll address more of the practical considerations associated with designing a building of this scale that adheres to passive building standards.