Highrises – Fact, Fiction, Fun, and For Sale

Unlike the term “skyscraper”, the term “highrise” has a fairly widely accepted definition, though the definition DOES vary somewhat depending on the perspective of the definer. According to Emporis, a real estate data firm headquartered in Germany, a highrise is a multi-storied building with a minimum of 12 floors, OR reaching a height of at least 115 feet. While these are probably the most widely accepted requirements, there are others.

The International Conference on Fire Safety in High-Rise Buildings defines a highrise as “any structure where the height can have a serious impact on evacuation”, while many in the construction industry consider anything between 75 – 491 feet a highrise, and anything over 492 a skyscraper. Regardless of the minimum height, the maximum height is going UP all the time, so, if living above the city – or even above the clouds – is you thing, read on.

Highrise history goes back a long way, back at least to the Romans who had buildings up to 8 stories high, despite the fact that technology did not allow for water to be pumped up that far. Walled cities in the middle ages meant city space was limited, giving “rise” to highrises from 11 to 14 stories in 16th century Britain. One of the big drawbacks about these historic highrises was the obvious lack of elevators, forcing the unlucky residents to climb many, many steps. The 202 foot London Monument, completed in 1677 (and still standing!), has 311 steps winding up its spiral staircase, while Toronto’s CN Tower, completed in 1976 boasts a ridiculous 2,579 stairs – the tallest metal staircase in the world! Not surprisingly, it was the invention of elevators, along with water pumps, steel, and steel-reinforced concrete that gave us the modern highrise.

Steel was very important in the development of the highrise. In 1884 Architect William Le Baron Jenney designed a building whose entire weight was supported by a steel frame. It was Chicago’s Home Insurance Building, only ten stories high, but the first of its kind: the world’s first skyscraper. At around this time, England was also building towers and highrises, including Shell Mex House which actually measured taller than the Home Insurance Building. A complaint from Queen Victoria soon put a stop to English highrises, however, but by this time Chicago’s attention had turned eastward, to what would become the tallest city in America.

While Chicago has the tallest building in the U.S. (the Sears Tower – 1,729 ft) New York City has the most tall buildings – a whopping 195 buildings OVER 492 feet. And while New York will be challenging Chicago’s tallest building title with the construction of Freedom Tower (1,776 ft), Chicago will trump that in 2010 with the construction of the Chicago Spire (2,000 ft.). And on it goes. While Chicago and New York have the tallest and the best, most North American cities have a couple of noteworthy skyscrapers. San Francisco has the regal Trans America Pyramid, Atlanta has the 1023 foot Bank of America Plaza, Philadelphia has the new deco style One Liberty Place, and Cleveland – yes, even Cleveland – has the lofty Key Tower.

While the bigger skyscrapers have traditionally been built as a combination of office space and a massive symbol of a city’s economic power, today, many of the nation’s tallest buildings offer condominium and loft space. Some, like Chicago’s Spire, with 1,200 luxury condos, are completely residential, others, are a mix of condos, hotel suites, and retail space. Las Vegas’s City Center is a prime example of the latter type of real estate development: four unique and spectacular towers, offering a range of luxurious condos atop 500,000 square feet of retail space, services and amenities. These are just some of the more extravagant examples of the types of amazing homes available today in America’s highrises.

Source by Brian Enright