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Project Managers in High-Rise Construction: Sought-After Specialists

The prognosis is clear: a 30 percent increase in world population by 2050 with disproportionate growth in cities. High-rise buildings can ease crowding and make cities more livable. Project managers take on specific, complex tasks in high-rise projects. They not only coordinate appointments and take care of contracts, they also control costs, check wind and light conditions, review building materials, oversee commissioning and official approvals, and tailor fit-out for special tenant wishes.

For the high-rise experts at KVL, work begins as soon as a client acquires a piece of land. Scheduled processes are set up, the entire organization is taken in hand, award strategies are developed, award procedures are supervised, contracts are drawn up with project partners, manuals are written, and structures are implemented. If desired, KVL also provides advice on partnering models. “Builders are usually not specialists in high-rise construction,” says Steffen Schmitt, co-founder of KVL and managing partner of KVL Bauconsult Frankfurt GmbH, where he has supervised high-rise construction for a long time. For this reason, KVL offers comprehensive accompanying services.

Complexity Grows With Height

In Germany a building is considered a high-rise from a minimum height of 22 meters (72 feet), and a skyscraper at over 150 meters (492 feet). The higher it reaches, the more complex the project becomes. In the run-up to construction, for example, designers must ensure that a building blends into the surrounding urban texture without any adverse effects. The project manager initiates wind simulations to prevent disruptive air circulation in the vicinity. Shading studies ensure that the building doesn’t deprive surrounding buildings and spaces of needed sunlight, and radar technicians prevent possible interference with aircraft in the sky.

Fire protection is particularly important. Because of their large access cores (stairwells and elevators), high-rise buildings have a lower space efficiency than normal buildings; the floor plans here have to be worked out carefully. Technical centers, smoke pressure systems in stairwells, smoke heat extraction systems, and sprinkler systems all require more expertise than low-rise buildings.

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Then it is urgent to consider the design of high-rise lobbies and facades. The choice of materials and placement of technology are crucial here. “For us, it is immediately noticeable when a planner does not yet have a lot of high-rise experience. In principle, the following applies: the higher the altitude, the greater the planning requirements for these engineering disciplines,” explains Steffen Schmitt. Time runs quickly in building technology. More and more innovative technologies are being used, from hardware to digital access control, space allocation, resource consumption, lighting, elevators, and much more. “You have to consider that a high-rise project usually extends over five years. During this time, digital technology is constantly changing in many areas,” notes Steffen Schmitt. An elevator, for example, is now a fascinating piece of high tech, starting with drive systems and new materials. KVL also provides support in other areas, such as the provision of bank monitoring.

KVL has already guided many high-rise projects in Frankfurt, such as the 170-meter-high (558 feet) TaunusTurm and the 195-meter-high (640 feet) OmniTurm. Currently the next project is in progress. With a height of around 205 meters, it will be one of the top 5 Frankfurt skyscrapers, about the size of the MAIN TOWER. Above that, only a few towers reach higher: the Commerzbank High-Rise, the tallest building in Frankfurt, measures 259 meters (850 feet).

High-Rise Construction Growth Market

Beyond Frankfurt, KVL sees high growth potential in the German high-rise market. Construction of residential high-rise buildings in Germany is booming. Until recently, residential towers had not had a good reputation, being associated with the anonymous and dirty social housing blocks of the 1960s and 1970s. But the perception is changing. New high-rise apartment buildings are increasingly springing up. They fulfill the needs of an urban population, even if these can be very different. Steffen Schmitt: “While the population shifted to the countryside just a few decades ago, life in the city is now increasingly attractive. This results from the statistics on population development in big cities. High-rise buildings help to increase the density of buildings – after all, they create a lot of living space in a relatively small area. “

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In the office market, high-rise buildings will retain their relevance because high-quality space will gain in importance. Although the Covid crisis has established the home office as a competitor, personal exchange makes the office special and cannot be replaced by digital communication. This requires a special design of areas and rooms. “Since high-rise buildings usually have a higher quality of furnishings than smaller buildings, they play a very important role on the way to high-quality space,” says Steffen Schmitt.

Thanks to its expertise in the project management of “real” high-rise buildings over 150 meters high, KVL sees itself at the forefront of the market. There are currently three engineers who specialize in high-rise construction work at KVL in Frankfurt. In order to meet increasing demand for high-quality high-rise buildings, KVL would like to strengthen its team in this area. As Steffen Schmitt puts it: “We are looking for staff to further expand our unique selling proposition.”

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