Developer reaffirms plan to finish world's tallest building in 90 days

A 220-story Sky City tower in the Chinese city of Changsha could take the crown as the world's tallest skyscraper next March with an astounding height of 2,749 feet, edging out the mega Burj Khalifa that currently stands 2,722 feet over Dubai.

What makes the 11-million-square-foot Sky City so astonishing isn't its height or its appearance but rather the three-month construction plan to create the building that kicks off at the end of the year. Broad Group -- the company responsible for assembling the skyscraper -- plans to achieve these insane building speeds by using 95 percent prefabricated modular pieces that are sort of similar to a giant Lego set to construct the building. … Read more

3D modeling and printing with a clean interface

SketchUp for Mac is a 3D design app that allows you to create 3D models and, using an online service, get those models built. SketchUp for Mac installs easily but was not available from the App Store when we tested the software, instead requiring a download from the publisher. SketchUp for Mac is a free app, but there's a Pro version for additional cost with more features and capabilities.

SketchUp for Mac lets you create surprisingly complex and detailed 3D models, but there's a learning curve to doing so. The interface is surprisingly clean and easy to work … Read more

Design 3D buildings and landscapes

This program moves beyond napkin sketching to communicating ideas in 3D. SketchUp takes what may traditionally be seen as a complicated task and adds an intuitiveness many design programs fail to achieve. On first impression, this sketch-based 3D-modeling program may look as if it has sacrificed function for simplicity, but that's not the case. Despite the extremely user-friendly interface, SketchUp offers a suite of powerful 3D drawing tools that lets you experiment and play with new designs.

All actions are carried out using two button bars, one that runs down the left side and another that sits along the … Read more

Architects float prison-in-the-sky idea

Prisons separate inmates from society with walls. But the winners of eVolo magazine's 2010 Skyscraper Competition have a very different vision: a prison in the sky where height itself becomes the barrier.

The annual contest recognizes designs that redefine skyscrapers through the use of new technologies, materials, aesthetics, and spatial organization. This year, the contest drew 430 entries from 42 countries.

The Malaysian architecture students who created what they call the Vertical Prison present a futuristic design, to be sure, but it's inspired by current studies showing high levels of post-release offenses that many associate with a lack of prisoner rehabilitation. With resocialization in mind, the designers imagine a kind of parallel prison universe complete with agricultural fields, factories, and recyclable plants. Inmates would work in those ventures to contribute to the host city below, thus maintaining a connection to the world they aim to re-inhabit one day.

Transportation to and from the prison in the sky would take place via various pods--for inmates, prison employees, medical personnel, cargo, and so on. The pods could also provide daily surveillance.

But as envisioned by Chow Khoon Toong, Ong Tien Yee, and Beh Ssi Cze, the Vertical Prison is a fundamentally optimistic place. The modular prison cells would even have openings to reveal life beyond the inhabitants' confined spaces, hopefully inspiring them to want to recapture some of what they have lost while incarcerated.

Second place in the contest went to the Indonesian team that conceived of the Ciliwung Recovery Program, a giant edifice that looks like a cross between a sculpture you'd find outside a modern-art museum and an uber-cool playground climbing structure. Actually, it's a 100 percent sustainable skyscraper that provides housing and office space while collecting garbage from the Ciliwung River river bank in Jakarta and purifying the river's water through a system of mega-filters. … Read more

Swing as long as possible

Rope'n'Fly 2 Lite is a free preview of Rope'n'Fly 2, a simple-but-fun physics-based, 2D arcade game in which you swing from building to building on a rope, trying to cover as much distance as possible. The touch-screen interface is easy to pick up: You begin the game falling onto a city skyline, and you just tap on a building to attach your rope. Once you're swinging forward, you tap again to release and then repeat to attach your rope to the next building. You want to time each release for the maximum forward momentum, but … Read more

Business building owners strive to go green

Many of the nation's office and retail towers would use one-third less energy by 2012, if they meet goals set today by the Building Owners and Managers Association.

The group unveiled its plan at its annual conference in Manhattan to shrink the carbon emissions of some 9 billion square feet of commercial real estate, using the government's Energy Star benchmarks for energy and water usage. Green-building standards set by the nonprofit-run Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design are more stringent.

Still, this initiative, if successful, would significantly cut the $24 billion spent on energy each year by the … Read more