Empire State Building: Monument of the Millennium
Civil engineers recently ranked the 1,454 foot (381m), 102-story skyscraper as one of the top 10 civil engineering projects of all time, dubbing it the Monument of the Millennium. There were many firsts that the Empire State Building brought to architecture, including a novel water delivery system that was a big innovation in its time. The project was completed in 1931 at the height of the Great Depression and held the title of the world’s tallest building until the World Trade Center was completed in 1972.
Structural engineer Homer Gauge Balcom, who earned a civil engineering degree from Cornell University in 1897, had a long career in New York City architecture, helping build the Grand Central Railroad Terminal before getting involved with the Empire State building.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the building required:
- 10 million bricks
- 10,000 tons of plaster
- 57,000 tons of steel
- 62,000 cubic yards of concrete
- 200,000 cubic feet of limestone
- 310,000 square feet of marble
And according to Cannon & Cannon, Inc.:
- The building houses 1,000 businesses and has its own ZIP code
- The building has 73 elevators, including service elevators
- The exterior of the building was built using Indiana limestone panels
- The Empire State Building cost $40,948,900 to build–the equivalent to more than $635,000,000 today
- Due to renovations, the building received a gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating in September 2011, making the Empire State Building the tallest LEED certified building in the United States
- In 1964, floodlights were added to illuminate the top of the building at night. In 2012, the previously metal halide lamps and floodlights were replaced with LED fixtures. The spire at the top of the building has been lit different colors to match different events
- Recently, the building was illuminated to draw attention to the world’s endangered wildlife
- The longest world record held by the Empire State Building was for the tallest skyscraper (to structural height), which it held for 42 years until the North Tower of the World Trade Center surpassed it in 1972
- The building is currently the fifth tallest skyscraper in America
On April 1, 1964 floodlights illumined the 72nd floor and the top of the Empire State building making it visible from the 1964 New York World’s Fair taking place across the East River in Queens that celebrated American culture and a wave of new technologies that were radically changing the world.
The following video shows just how primitive the technology was that engineers used to build the Empire State building.
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