Sky High


For our final structural engineering project of Winter Quarter, we have been asked to assemble in teams of three and design a very simple building in which we would calculate loads on decks, beams, girders, and columns, and then appropriately size each. Over the course of a few days, my team and I designed a building for our client (our professor) and a made up company in a non-construction industry. Each team had to come up with their own firm name, and we decided on DMW (a play on BMW) by mashing up the first letter of each person’s last name. Naturally, as architecture students, we had to go above and beyond and take the prompt as a semi-serious opportunity to have fun designing a practical building without too many other constraints. Our client is a German based aircraft manufacturing company who is looking to open a shiny new office in Germany.

Even though this project was very short and not work intensive, I enjoyed being able to sort of put together an entire building in a very short amount of time. It is very much a different culture in structural engineering as our design studio pushes us to design projects that often extend well beyond the realm of practicality, which, in my opinion, doesn’t always effectively train us to develop fundamentally sound architecture that is contextually appropriate and beneficial to the community. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that I am at my most creative when practical restraints are in play. One must consider ways to meander around those constraints and restrictions, whether they be economic, structural, spatial, code based, or anything else.

As my professor says: K.I.S.S! (Keep It Simple Stupid!)


30,000 square feet total broken down into:

20,000 square feet of office space

10,000 square foot column free conference center

Our Proposal

We are proposing a 30,000 square foot office and conference center that is inspired by small aircraft hangar design. The first and second floors consist of office space while the third floor conference center has a 24 foot maximum ceiling height where the pitched roofs meet at a gable in order to allow the space to be column free. The building has a distinctive industrial characteristic. All three floors are broken up by a well lit central lobby/atrium space that serves as the primary vertical circulation core and the main entrance. This is supplemented at the two ends by outdoor covered space.

Concept Sketch

Each floor is book-ended by large windows which allow for daylighting, natural ventilation, and views outside. Ideally the glass atrium and both windows on the end should allow much of the building’s occupants to rely on daylighting. Electric lighting will be supplemented where needed.

We were required to integrate a cantilever that we incorporated on one end of the structure. It is a 10 foot cantilever that sits over our worst case beams. You can see the cantilever in the concept sketch above. The stratification of program is quite simple, which was the goal. As one can see in the rendering above, which is from the second floor, the conference center on the third floor can be clearly seen as well as the structurally articulated pitched ceiling on the third floor.




The building is 3 stories high, and has a footprint that measures 210′ x 55′. The building has a traditional steel frame with structural bays that measure 35′ x 27.5′. Columns, girders, and beams have been appropriately sized according to the load that they carry. You can also see the 10′ cantilever at the lower end of the floor plan on the second and third floor.

Simple Structural Plan

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