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Department of Architecture, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Address
Findikli, Istanbul, 34427, Turkey
The advent of computers in conjunction with a boom in the construction industry following the Great Depression and
World War I1 facilitated the development of new structural systems and forms. It is now possible to analyse and
investigate different structural systems and concepts with the aid of the computer, which has never been possible before.
This is in fact, a primary reason why conventional rigid-frame systems have been the prevalent structural systems for tall
buildings until then. Fazlur Khan developed and refined the revolutionary tubular building concept, and the buildings
reached to an unimaginable height with unimaginable amount of material. Here the building skeleton comprises closely T
aced perimeter columns that provide much greater lateral resistance than is obtained with conventional systems because
of the three-dimensional response of the building to lateral loads. This paper gives a brief explanation of tubular systems
with a number of case studies from Turkey and abroad. In this context, the historical development of tubular systems is
given firstly. Then, the tube concept is identified from the structural point of view as well as architectural point of view,
and types of tubular systems - such as framed tubes, trussed tubes, and bundled tubes- are considered. While giving
information about various kinds of tubular systems, a number of tall buildings are also presented.

From the structural point of view, a building can be
defined tall, when its height creates different conditions
in the design, construction, and use than the conditions
that exist for the lower buildings [ 1,2]. These conditions
are manifest when the effects of lateral loads begin to
influence its design. For example, in the design of tall
buildings, in addition to the requirements of strength,
stiffness and stability, the lateral deflections due to wind
or seismic loads should be controlled to prevent both
structural and nonstructural damage. Also the wind
response of top floors in terms of their accelerations
during frequent windstorms should be kept within
acceptable limits to minimize motion perception and
discomfort to building occupants.
The recent trend in high-rise structures includes the
tubular system, which has been developed by Fazlur R.
Khan in 1960s [3, 41. The tube concept has been
employed on a number of high-rise office buildings as
an efficient framing system. It describes a structural
system in which the perimeter of the building, consisting
of vertical supports interconnected by beams or bracing
members, acts as a giant vertical, internally stiffened
tube, resisting the horizontal forces from wind or
earthquake, and providing lateral support to all vertical
supporting members against buckling [5]. This paper
gives brief information about several types of tubular
systems, as well as providing information about a
number of examples from Turkey.


Development of Tubular Concept

The development of the initial generation of tubular

systems for high-rise buildings can be traced to the
concurrent evolution of reinforced concrete construction
following World War 11. Prior to the early 1960s,
reinforced concrete was utilized primarily for low-rise
construction of only a few stories in height. These
buildings were characterized by planar Vierendeel beam
and column arrangements with wide spacing between
members: The basic inefficiency of the frame system for
reinforced concrete buildings of more than about 15
stories resulted in member proportions of prohibitive
size and structural material cost premiums, and thus
such systems were economically inviable. Concrete
shear wall systems arranged within the building interior
could be utilized, but they were often of insufficient size
for stiffness and resistance against overturning. This led
to the development of structural systems with a higher
degree of efficiency toward lateral load resistance for
taller buildings. The notion of a fully three-dimensional
structural system utilizing the entire building inertia to
resist lateral loads began to emerge at this time. Khan
being the main proponent of this design trend
systematically pursued a logical evolution of tall
building structural systems [2,6]:
The tubular concept operates as an inherently
stiffened three-dimensional framework, where the entire
building works to resist overturning moments. Tubes

can encompass shear walls, columns and beams

attempting to make them act as one unit. The main
future of a tube is closely spaced exterior columns
connected by deep spandrels that form a spatial skeleton
and are advantageous for resisting lateral loads in a three
dimensional structural space. Window openings usually
cover about 50 % of exterior wall surface. Larger
openings such as retail store and garage entries are
accommodated by large transfer girders. The tubular
concept is both structurally and architecturally
applicable to concrete buildings as is evident from
DeWitt-Chestnut Apartment Building in Chicago
completed in 1965, the first known building engineered
as a tube by Khan [3,4,7, 8,9, 101.
The adoption of the framed tube in steel required an
examination of fabrication methods. While concrete is
field-molded, steel needs to be welded, which is not cost
effective in the field. The development of a framed tube
module involving one column and half spandrel beams,
which can be field-bolted, made possible the application
of the framed tube principle to steel. The tree units are
shop-fabricated in jigs where welding can be done under
controlled conditions. The erection of this unit is both
highly efficient and faster than normal construction. The
60 State Street Building of Skidmore, Owings and
Merill, designed in 1977, in Boston is one of the many
existing examples of framed tube construction in steel
(Figure 1) [ I l , 121. With this concept, one can examine
the freedom for forming exterior surfaces. The shape
was derived from consideration of massing with respect
to neighboring tall buildings and visual impact. The
building was conceived as a concrete frame tube, but
was later changed to steel, thus attesting to the
interchangeability of materials in this concept.

Figure 1. 60 State Street Building, Boston.

3. Types of Tubular Structures

The shape of the tubes may be designed in a number of
ways depending on the layout of the building. Several
types may be distinguished from the point of view of
structural design and the layout of walls. They will be
lined up according to their effectiveness and the implied
suitability for large or small heights or slenderness ratios
as follows.

3.1 Framed tube system

The framed tube system consists of closely spaced
exterior columns and spandrel beams, which are rigidly
connected together [2, 4, 131. The monolithic nature of
reinforced concrete is ideally suited for such a system.
Depending on the height and dimensions of the building,
exterior column spaces should be on the order of 1.5 to
4.5 m on center maximum. Spandrel beam depths for
office or residential buildings are typically 600 to 1200
mm. The resulting system approximates a tube
cantilevered from the ground with openings punched
through the tube walls. The closely spaced columns and
deep spandrels have a secondary benefit related to the
exterior cladding for reinforced concrete constructions.
Exterior columns eliminate the need for intermediate
vertical mullion elements of the curtain walls, partially
or totally. An early example of the framed tube system is
the DeWitt Chestnut Apartments in Chicago, as
mentioned earlier.
The tube is suitable for both steel and reinforced
concrete construction and has been used for buildings
ranging from 40 to 100 stories [14]. The highly
repetitive pattern of the frames lends itself to
prefabrication in steel, and to the use of rapidly movable
gang forms in concrete, which allows rapid construction.
The framed tube in structural steel requires welding of
the beam-column joint to develop rigidity and
continuity. The formation of fabricated tree elements,
where all welding is performed in the shop in a
horizontal position, has made the steel frame tube
system more practical and efficient (Figure 2) [2].


framed tube at the perimeter (Figure 7a-b). The sizes of

the columns are 600 x 600 mm on the lower towers and
600 x 900 m on the taller tower, and spaced 3.5 m on
the centers. The spandrel beams of the higher tower is
designed as flat beams with a height of 350 mm,
whereas the sizes of the spandrel beams of the lower
towers are 600 x 750 mm. The towers also contain inner
cores, which consists of shear walls. The width of these
shear walls in the 36-story tower is 400mm, whereas the
width of the shear walls in the 52-story tower is 600 mm
[9, 10, 15, 16, 171.
Figure 2. Typical tree erection unit..

The closely spacing of columns throughout the

height of a framed tube is usually unacceptable at the
entrance levels for architectural reasons. Therefore a
limited number of columns can be transferred with little,
if any, structural premium because the vierendeel action
of the fagade frame is generally sufficient to transfer the
load. However, if the transfer is too severe requiring
removal of a large number of columns, a 1- or 2-story
deep transfer girder or truss may be necessary.
Temporary shoring is required to support the dead and
construction loads until a sufficient number of
vierendeel frames are constructed, or in concrete
construction, until the girder has achieved the design
strength (Figure 3) [ 13.
Maya Akar Business Center in Istanbul, Turkey is a
typical example of framed tube systems. The Business
Center consists of two towers, one of which is 19- and
the other 34 stories (Figure 4). The plan shape of the 19story A Block is a rectangle, whereas the plan shape of
the 34-story B Block is a square (Figure 5 ) . The exterior
columns are spaced at 3.5 m centers and the spandrels
connecting the columns are 400 mm deep. The towers
also have inner cores, designed to resist the gravity
loads only. The width of load-bearing walls are 350 mm
and 600 mm respectively in the A and B Blocks [lo].
Another recent example of the framed tube systems
is the Is Bank General Headquarters, which was
completed in late 2000 (Figure 6). The complex consists
of three towers, two of which are 36-story and the third
is 52 story. Designed by Dogan Tekeli and Sami Sisa
Architect, the towers are the tallest buildings of Turkey.
The structural engineer, Irfan Balioglu, designed the
towers to resist an earthquake magnitude of 9.0 on the
Richter Scale. The towers resist the lateral loads by a


- Dmgonal brace


Figure 3. Shoring system for a tube structure.

Figure 4. Maya Akar Business Center.





Figure 7. Is Bank General Headquarters, structural framing:

Figure 5. Maya Mar Business Center, typical floor plans

(a) The 52-story tower.

3.2 Tube in tube system

This variation of the framed tube consists of an outerframed tube, the hull together with an internal elevator
and service core. The hull and the core act jointly in
resisting both gravity and lateral loading. In a steel
structure the core may consists of braced frames,
whereas in a concrete structure it would consist of an
assembly of shear walls.






0.65 x 0 . 6 ~ 5 ~

L0.60x 0.60

Figure 7. Is Bank General Headquarters, structural framing:

(b) The 36 story tower.

3.3 Trussed tube system

Figure 6. Is Bank General Headquarters, Istanbul.

To some extent, the outer frame tube and the inner

core interact horizontally as the shear and flexural
components of a wall-frame structure, with the benefit of
increased lateral stiffness. However, the structural tube
usually adopts a highly dominant role due to its much
greater structural depth [4, 10, 141.

A trussed tube system represents a classic solution for

improving the efficiency of framed tube by increasing its
potential for use to even greater heights as well as
allowing greater spacing between the columns. This is
achieved by adding diagonal bracing to the face of the
tube to virtually eliminate the shear lag effects in both
flange and web frames [ l , 141 This arrangement was
first used in a steel structure in 1969, in Chicagos John
Hancock Center.
Although the trussed tube was initially developed
for structural steel construction, Fazlur Khan applied

similar principles to reinforced concrete construction.
He visualized a concrete version of the diagonal trussed
tube consisting of exterior columns spaced at about 3.04
m centers with block out windows at each floor to create
a diagonal pattern on the faGade. The diagonals could
then be designed to carry the shear forces, thus
eliminating bending in the tube columns and girders.
Currently there exist two high-rises, which are
constructed using this approach. The first is a 50-story
office structure located on Third Avenue in N.Y., and
the second is a mixed-use building located on Michigan
Avenue in Chicago. The first example is a combination
of a framed and trussed tube interacting with a system of
interior core walls (Figure 8). All the three subsystems,
consisting of a framed tube, trussed tube, and shear
walls, are designed to carry both lateral as the 780 Third
Avenue Building and vertical loads. The building is
173.73 m high with an unusually high height-to-width
ratio of 8:l. The diagonals created by filling in the
windows serve a dual function. First, they increase the
efficiency of the tube by diminishing the shear lag, and
second they reduce the differential shortening of the
exterior columns by redistributing the gravity loads. A
stiffer and much more efficient structure is realized with
the addition of diagonals. The idea of diagonally bracing
this structure was suggested by Fazlur Khan to the firm
of Robert Rossenwasser Associates, who executed the
structural design for the building [ l , 101. The Chicago
version of the system is a 60-storey multi-use project,
named as Onterie Center (Figure 9). The building rises
in two tubular segments above a flared base. According
to the designer, diagonal bracing was used primarily to
allow maximum flexibility in the interior layout
needed for mixed use. In contrast to the building in New
York, which is clad with polished granite, Onterie
Center has an exposed concrete framing and bracing [2,
10, 181. Citicorp Center is a remarkable example of
trussed tube system, which is constructed in steel. The
60-story office building has a 47.8 m square plan, with
all of its comers jutting out 23 m unsupported from only
four exterior columns, one centered on each side. The
central core also supports the tower. The most direct and
economical way to achieve the 23-m comer cantilevers
on each face of the tower was to provide a steel-framed
braced tube with a systemof columns and diagonals in
compression, channeling the buildings gravity loads into
a 1.5-m wide mast columns in the center of each face

(Figure IO). The main diagonals repeat in eight-story

modules [2,9, 191.

3.4 Modular (bundled) tube system

The most efficient plan shape for a framed tube is a

square or a circle, whereas a triangular shape has the
least inherent efficiency. The high torsional stiffened
characteristic of the exterior tubular system is
advantageous in structurally unsymmetrical shapes.
However, for buildings with significant vertical offsets,
the discontinuity in the tubular frame introduces some
serious inefficiency. A modular or bundled tube
configured with many cells, on the other hand has the
ability to offer vertical offsets in buildings without loss
in efficiency.
The modular tube system allows for wider spacing
of columns in the tubular walls than would be possible
with only an exterior framed tube. It is this spacing,
which makes it possible to place interior space planning
[ 11. In principle, any closed-formed shape may be used
to create a modular tube. The ability to modulate the
cells vertically can create a powerful vocabulary for a
variety of dynamic shapes. The bundled tube principle
therefore offers great latitude in the architectural
planning of a very tall building [2]. The most
remarkable example of the modular tube system in steel
is the 110-story Sears Tower in Chicago. With a height
of 443 m, the tower consists of 9 tubes. Each tube is
22.9 m square and make up a typical lower floor for
overall floor dimensions of 68.6 m. This square plan
shape extends to the fiftieth floor, where the first tube
terminations occur. Other terminations occur at floors

66 and 90 (Figure 11). The structure acts as a vertical
cantilever fixed at the base to resist lateral loads. Nine
square tubes of varying heights are bundled together to
create the larger overall tube. Each tube comprises
columns at 4.58-m centers connected by stiff beams.
Two adjacent tubes share one set of columns and beams.
All coIumn-to-beam connections are fully welded. At
three levels, the tubes incorporate trusses, provided to
make the axial column loads more uniform where tube
dropoffs occur. These trusses occur below floors 66
and 90 and between floors 29 and 3 1 [ 1,2,4,9, 101.

also provides for some lateral distribution of load from

the more heavily loaded columns (Figure 12) [2,20].

Figure 11. Sears Tower.

Figure 12. Rialto Towers, Melbourne, structural framing.


Figure 10. Citicorp Center, elevation

Another example of the bundled tube system is the

63-story Rialto Building in Melbourne, Australia. A
number of structural systems for the Rialto Building
were initially investigated and a reinforced concrete
structural system was finally adopted, with speed of
construction being a prime consideration in the
development of formwork and reinforcement details.
The external frame of columns and beams, while being
designed for the direct and live loads applicable, acts as
an external tube in resisting lateral loads. Although plan
shape is unsymmetrical and the columns are 5 m apart,
analysis of the load transfer around the comers indicated
reasonable three-dimensional action. The tube effect



In the design of tall buildings, in addition to the

requirements of strength, stiffness and stability the
lateral deflections due to wind or seismic loads should
be controlled to prevent structural and nonstructural
damage and occupants discomfort. The recent trends in
tall building design include tubular systems, which have
been developed by Fazlur Khan in 1960 and have been
efficiently employed on a number of buildings since
then. The term, in the usual building terminology
suggests a system of closely spaced columns tied
together with relatively deep spandrels. The system is a
fully three dimensional system that utilizes the entire
building perimeter to resist lateral loads. Since the entire
lateral load is resisted by the perimeter frame, the
interior floor plan is kept relatively free of core bracing
and large columns, thus increasing the net leasable area
of the building. The interior framing can be designed

only for resistance to gravity loads. As a trade-off, views
from the interior of the building may be hindered by
closely spaced exterior columns. This issue is
considered to be the best advantage of tubular systems
from the architectural point of view.
The tube system can be constructed of reinforced
concrete, structural steel, or a combination of the two
materials, which is named to be composite construction.
Also the type of the tubular system, such as framed,
trussed, modular tube or tube-in-tube mostly depends on
the layout of the building, as well as the height of the
building and the loads effecting on the structure. Not
only the structural engineers, but also the architects, who
are closely related with the design of high-rises, must be
aware of the tubular system, to design contemporary tall

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