How Do Large Buildings Support Their Weight?

Architects and engineers have constructed buildings that seemingly keep growing larger with time. But how do they keep making larger buildings without them either collapsing on themselves or falling over? They weigh a ton, so what is stopping these massive structures from toppling over?


One of the architects’ most effective tricks is starting with a strong foundation. The underground and bottom floors of a building are the most important layers of the structure. In order to begin formatting a multi-layer building, the architect and engineer must find a location for the structure where there is firm ground. The best firm grounds are solid rock or compressed soil. In order to ensure no shifting or sinking of the structure, architects may also rest the building on concrete slabs that are held up by hundreds of concrete piles.

If the building is placed on soft or loose-soil ground, then subsidence could be a problem. Subsidence is when floods or droughts occur, making the ground either too wet or too dry to support a building. This problem can be solved by pumping concrete under the building in order to both stops the building from sinking as well as raising the building up to where it was first constructed.

Why don’t they collapse?

As with any other construction, there needs to be a strong base to build off of to prevent the collapsing of the object. Typically, the bottom stories of a building are under more pressure than the upper stories of a building because they support more weight. To prevent collapsing, the architect must make the bottom stories stronger than the upper ones. Architects usually do this by adding extra support, like steel pillars, to the lower layers of the tower. They may also add slender pillars, have strong outer walls, or sturdy horizontal girders to prevent the building from collapsing.

Balanced forces

Skyscrapers, like the CN Tower in Toronto, are basically hollow on the inside, other than some supporting walls. Because of this, architects have to figure out how to make a hollow building that is capable of supporting its own weight along with the weight of its contents and occupants. To construct this successfully, the architects must understand how gravity is channeled throughout the structure, and then they need to place horizontal and vertical supports throughout the tower where required. This involves placing load-bearing walls to support the weight from the upper floors.

Overall, skyscrapers, as well as larger buildings, are impressive and strong creations that continuously become stronger as technology advances. Regardless of how tall or small a building is, though, they all generally work with the same concept. The foundation of the building needs to be capable of supporting the rest of its upper-body. And there are multiple factors that architects, as well as engineers, need to consider before the construction of any project.

If you have your own construction project for which you need advice or if you just want more fascinating construction facts, check out more posts on this awesome website!


Avis | Toronto CN Tower

BBC | How do skyscrapers stay up?

Explain That Stuff | How Buildings Work