Damping Explained: Enhancing building performance

Updated: Nov 14


High-rise buildings and skyscrapers are susceptible to larger wind loads and therefore often require supplemental damping systems to reduce building movement. While damping technology emerged as a solution to address motion, dampers are now frequently used to enhance a variety of performance indexes. Understanding the different types of damping systems–and how each can augment your design–will help you select the ideal damping system for your building project.


What are the benefits dampers bring to high-rise buildings?


Dampers–whether a tuned mass damper (TMD) or tuned sloshing damper (TSD)–provide a robust solution to movement from pedestrian loading, wind, and seismic action. Motion control from dampers increases structural integrity and promotes the comfort of individuals inside the building itself.


Supplemental damping systems can also improve the function of other technical systems within the structure. For example, reducing movement to the building also reduces the vibration of elevators and elevator cables, which can otherwise cause service interruptions and shutdowns. In addition, tuned sloshing dampers, which use a large tank of water to provide motion control, can also serve a dual purpose as part of the fire suppression system if needed. Finally, dampers can also contribute to the overall long-term performance of the building’s façade as well as extend the fatigue life of the building materials.


What is material fatigue and how do dampers help?


Wind and seismic action can both cause buildings to sway significantly, potentially for an extended period. Swaying under these conditions stresses the structural system of the building. The stress can accumulate over time, resulting in material fatigue or ‘wear and tear.’ The extent of material fatigue will vary based on the level of wind loads on the building’s structural system, as well as the longevity of these actions, and the quality of the building materials.


Dampers can assist in the significant reduction of the swaying and the resulting stress from wind.


Thinking beyond function: Dampers in architectural design


Supplemental damping systems, including tuned mass dampers, are increasingly common in tall buildings. While many TMDs remain hidden, incorporated into the structure’s interior design, there is an emerging trend for some projects to integrate the supplemental damping system into the architectural design and expose the damper rather than hide it. Often called the new “Learning Economy,” owners are recognizing that the general public is often interested in understanding the interesting engineering technologies that contribute to making tall buildings possible.


The first to recognize the design aesthetic of dampers, Taipei 101 has leveraged the tuned mass damper into a prime architectural feature and popular tourist attraction, generating revenue through public viewings. In addition, the supplemental damping system in Shanghai Tower, a landmark project in China, was designed, implemented, and integrated as an architectural feature on display for the public visiting the building.


Are dampers only for new construction, or can they help existing buildings?


Damping system implementation is not limited to new construction in high-rise buildings and skyscrapers. Damping technology can also improve the performance of existing buildings impacted by wind-induced motions. In addition, dampers can be used to reduce motion in other structures, such as bridges and floors.


Get more information on how supplemental damping systems improve building performance or view the second video in our Damping Explained series, Chapter 2: A Range of Possibilities.

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