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THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING

V. Ryan 2003 - 2009

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The Empire State Building was the highest building in the world for forty Years. It was constructed in New York (USA) an era when American cities such as Chicago and New York competed to have the highest skyscrapers.

To make way for the new skyscraper the old Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Fifth Avemue was demolished. Demolition started in March 1930 and the construction of the new building was completed in fourteen months, on May 14th, 1931.

With a 102 stories it was the tallest building in the world for forty years. Only when  the first tower of the World Trade Centre was completed in 1972 was it deposed as the highest building.

The architects, Shreve, Lamb and Harmon Associates, were given the brief of creating the tallest building in the world. To achieve this they decided to use a steel frame as the basic construction technique. The builders, Starrett Brothers and Eken Incorporated were skilled in using this construction method. Due to its size it originally had 64 elevators to aid the distribution of people up and down the building.

When completed, the buildings overall height was 1472 feet (448 metres). This included the antenna at the top of the building. The original idea was that the antenna would be used to dock airships. However, this was dropped when it was realised that people were unlikely to enjoy disembarking an airship, that was tethered to the building, at the height of over a thousand feet.

The building cost over forty million dollars and this was in a time of economic depression. Some referred to the building as the building that should never had been. One reason for the rapid completion was that the owners wanted rent from the spaces available as soon as possible.
 

 
 

THE TECHNOLOGY OF CONSTRUCTION

 

In its day, the Empire State Building was constructed using up to date technology. A substantial concrete base was laid as a foundation to take the weight of the steel framework of the building. All the steel sections were prefabricated, that is, manufactured in a steel mill and transported to the construction site. The sections were manufactured to exact sizes to within 2mm tolerance and prepared so that they could either be bolted together or joined with rivets. It only took three days for the sections to be manufactured in the steel mill, transported and positioned in the framework as part of the buildings structure.
Once the steel framework was fixed in positioned it was then finished with an outer skin of stone.

   
 

JOINING TECHNIQUES

The labourers (sky boys as they were called), walked up and down the structure as it was put together. Their job was to fix the separate sections together, often using large nuts and bolts. The work was dangerous although not one sky boy was killed during the construction.

   

 

   

A second joining technique was to use hot rivets. The technique was first used in the ship building industry as a method of joining large steel plates. The steel rivet is heated until the plain end is red hot. It is then passed through the holes of the two sections. When hot the rivet is soft and can be shaped using a special rivet gun which rounds the plain end so that it is permanently fixed in position.

   

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