Paper Session 1 :

Force Majeure - Skyscrapers' Unforeseen Threats Response

As we move towards rapid urbanization, our cities are being densified and inflated, and more tall buildings are being built. Skyscrapers have become places where a considerable percent of city inhabitants spend most of their days. In parallel, cities around the world have dealt with Force-Majeure (defined as unforeseen circumstances or a greater force) scenarios on many scales and occasions, and humanity has recently learned how fragile our urban systems might be towards such conditions. 

During this continuous pandemic crisis, for example, large cities were the first to be hit on different levels. The Covid-19 breakout was a warning sign of the possible collapse of our "for granted" urban life and social ties. Other human-developed tangible and cyber threats are now in action, from the massive blast of Beirut port to the political unrest in Eastern Europe, the war in Syria and the subsequent migration crises in Europe to the riot in Minnesota, not to mention the nuclear and biological warfare capability developed by different powers around the world and its associated dangers.

How are skyscrapers prepared for conditions where people are forced to be indoors for extended periods? How can we create more resilient Tall Buildings capable of addressing such force majeure? These questions will be the focus of this panel. The aim is to collect the latest researches conducted in Force-Majeure relevant topics and scenarios including Pandemics, human-induced threats, and natural catastrophes: 


1. Pandemics

Urban planners, Architects, Builders, and design firms have already switched their focus to visualize the post-pandemic era. However, a more focused effort is required to cover specific fields of study, and one of which is our proposed interest in skyscrapers and vertical urban habitat.


2. Man-Induced Threats

Two massive explosions took place at the port of Beirut, which left hundreds of casualties and more than 8000 damaged buildings. The urban shoreline of the city was instantly rendered unlivable upon the explosion. Tall buildings with curtain-wall envelopes were affected the most, while solid-enveloped structures were less damaged and residents were able to adapt faster. Similar unforeseen threats could be more harmful and impose serious threats on the city's inhabitants and welfare if we do not consider them.

Another type of concern in skyscrapers, as vertical communities, is public safety, the integration of communications systems used by first-responder and emergency services personnel such as police and civil defense departments, emergency medical units, homeland security, and disaster response agencies should also be addressed to prevent, or respond, to incidents or situations that pose a threat to people welfare or properties.


3. Natural Catastrophes

From the hurricanes Katrina to the San Francisco earthquake, and from the severe typhoon of Shanghai to the tsunami of Japan, we have witnessed the might of nature in the form of catastrophes. This panel will also address skyscrapers' behaviors when exposed to natural catastrophes and the challenges that need to be addressed. 

Text by : Amjad Alkoud