Difference between Tower and Skyscraper

Key Difference: According to the technical definition, towers are structures that are usually taller than there are wide. Towers are usually distinguished from masts by their lack of guy-wires and are commonly built to take advantage of their height. Skyscraper is a term that is used to describe a really tall building that is made up of many stories. These are commonly designed for residential or commercial usage. There is no set definition of how long a tower must be to fall under a skyscraper.

Big cities around the world are successfully shifting to constructing bigger buildings to get more from the limited amount of space that is available. This is most common in cities, where buildings are being constructed taller to accommodate more floors. There are two types of terms in architecture that are often confusing for many people that are not related to the architecture field; these are tower and skyscraper. These two terms refer to tall buildings causing people great confusing. However, there are some differences between the two.

According to the technical definition, towers are structures that are usually taller than there are wide. Towers are usually distinguished from masts by their lack of guy-wires and are commonly built to take advantage of their height. They can also stand alone on the ground, or as part of a larger structure or device such as a fortified building or as an integral part of a bridge. Towers have existed since the beginning of time serving as structures, support for bridges or even prisons (think Rapunzel). The oldest towers were ziggurats, which existed in Sumerian architecture since the 4th millennium BC.

There are certain limits when building a tower. These include a tower can be made with the supporting structure with parallel sides up to a certain height, after which the load of the material exceeds and the tower fails. This can be avoided if a tower’s support tapers or narrows up the building. The term ‘tower’ has also been expanded to involve office and residential buildings. However, towers are used to describe structures build for defensive measures such as wall and defensive tower. It could also be used to harness electricity or store potential energy. There are also towers that are placed on top of the buildings that act as receivers or antennas for communications network and for transportation support such as bridges or control towers for airplanes.

Skyscraper is a term that is used to describe a really tall building that is made up of many stories. These are commonly designed for residential or commercial usage. There is no set definition of how long a tower must be to fall under a skyscraper. However, it does dictate that in order to classify for the term, Wikipedia states, “A building must have a steel framework from which curtain walls are suspended, rather than load-bearing walls of conventional construction. Some older constructed skyscrapers have a steel frame that enables the construction of load-bearing walls taller than of those made of reinforced concrete. Modern skyscrapers' walls are not load-bearing, and most skyscrapers are characterized by large surface areas of windows made possible by the concept of steel frame and curtain walls. However, skyscrapers can have curtain walls that mimic conventional walls and a small surface area of windows.”

Since 1960s, skyscrapers use the tubular designs created by Bangladeshi-American engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan. The tubular design makes the buildings more efficient and much stronger. It also reduces the usage of material while allowing it go even higher. Skyscrapers became popular as space started becoming a problem in many cities, with many small buildings being developed side by side. In today’s world, skyscrapers are considered as representing the economic strength of the country with the current tallest skyscraper known as the Burj Khalifa being found in Dubai.

The two buildings are often confused as many people are now labeling tall buildings as towers, which may or may not fall into the category of skyscraper. A building that is higher than the surrounding environment and changes the overall skyline view from the bottom is considered as a skyscraper. However, these two words shouldn’t commonly be interchanged as they have different meanings and refer to different structures.

Image Courtesy: commons.wikimedia.org, en.wikipedia.org

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