Thursday, October 11, 2007

Blowin' in the Wind

"Your soda is sloshing in the cup. The hanging lamp over the table is swaying like a pendulum. You're beginning to feel a little seasick. Are you in a boat on rough seas? Nope, just on the top floor of a skyscraper on a windy day."

"On very windy days, the building sways...the corner columns creak and groan... and my windowpane flaps and vibrates so alarmingly that I abandon my office." -- Tenant, Sears Tower, Chicago, IL

--From Skyscrapers by Carol A. Johmann

I'd heard about the fact that skyscrapers sway a bit in the wind, but I was... ahem... blown away to read that your soda would slosh in its cup and you might actually feel as if you were at sea. Wow. The book says that skyscrapers are actually designed to sway no more than their height in feet divided by 500. Which means the taller of the two World Trade Center Towers (yes, this book was written before 9-11) could and did sway 3 feet in all directions at the top.

My building in Black Box is not going to be a skyscraper, but it is going to have an atrium and it's going to be unusual, so I needed to know if it was even possible. I think it is, and I'm glad not to have to deal with swaying in the wind -- it's only going to have ten stories. I also learned about how they have to keep water tanks on the tops of very tall skyscrapers for fire fighting, since even the longest firetruck ladders only reach about the tenth floor.

My institute is ten floors but it's out in the middle of nowhere, so it probably needs some water tanks on the upper floors, too. Which has given me an idea for a lake and a garden on the ninth... or maybe eighth floor. That should be fun. I wonder if I do that, does it mean there has to be a flood sometime in the book? ...ooh. When I put it that way, given this story's Noahic underpinnings, I suppose it's almost inevitable. But we'll see...

Have a great weekend,