Urban centers have long been at the heart of economies around the globe. The dense areas around convention centers and entertainment hubs are packed with high-rise buildings that boast offices, retail, hotels, and apartment living. As people continue to flock to urban and city environments, design and construction of high-rise buildings remains in demand. However, executing these complex projects well requires a unique and sometimes hard-to-find skill set.

It’s All About the Logistics

Unlike construction on greenfield sites, high-rise projects don’t have available acres surrounding the site. Often the exact site of the building is the only land open to work on, causing logistical challenges for ingress/egress, deliveries, material laydown and personnel access.

For example, whereas a greenfield project could have all the steel needed for the building delivered at once and stored nearby, a high-rise project would need to schedule the fabrication and delivery of the steel exactly as needed to be set in place. High-rise personnel also wouldn’t have the luxury of walking across a building to locate misplaced equipment. Instead, a laborer would take a hoist down the side of the building, locate the necessary equipment, then head back up to the active floor, resulting in a disruption to productivity.

Due to the potential delays and time loss with these challenges, it’s critical for the project team to understand project flow and the sequencing of activities. To minimize inefficiencies and clearly define the critical path, high-rise project teams focus on the rhythm of schedule cycles, completing one level at a time, with predictable crew sizes prepared to execute work via effective repetition as they move up the building. This process requires detailed preplanning, coordination and project management technology to evaluate progress and determine workforce adjustments.

Be Diligent in Partner Selection

Proper selection of a design and construction team experienced in high-rise projects is essential for a safe build and high-quality end product. While the field of firms that can execute high-rise projects is already quite narrow, Burns & McDonnell has further set itself apart with its integrated approach to design-build. This approach secures all project specialties, including architecture, engineering and construction, under one roof.

With an integrated approach to design-build, the preplanning phase is a thorough, in-depth evaluation of the project with all specialties from day one. Therefore, challenges outside the typical scope can be identified and resolved before the project breaks ground. For example, an intricate building envelope design might require additional craft labor and create extremely difficult access situations, eventually requiring a downgrade in design or additional costs. With upfront collaboration across all in-house specialties, the project team can deliver a safe environment as well as a high-quality, high-end building.

High-rise projects in urban centers possess unique logistical complications that can easily sideline progress. But inventive solutions — and teams — exist to efficiently move projects onward and upward. By partnering with a firm that excels in building vertically, project owners can count on more creative, predictable and successful outcomes.


Learn how our integrated design-build approach elevated a modern living high-rise that pays tribute to the traditions of its surrounding historic, artistic metro epicenter.

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Jeffrey Valentino, commercial construction leader at Burns & McDonnell, specializes in commercial high-rise projects.