5 Types of Vertical Construction You Should Know About

Published Categorized as Construction
Vertical Construction

While several classifications of construction projects exist, most of them can be broken down into either vertical or horizontal construction. Vertical construction, as the name suggests, are projects that are built vertically and are taller than they’re wide. So what are the main types of vertical construction?

The most common type of vertical construction are private buildings, which include skyscrapers, parking lots, offices, and apartments. Towers, crane towers (short-term), billboards, and some bridges are also classifiable as types of vertical construction.

Next, we’ll break down the various types of vertical construction while also shedding light on the major differences between vertical and horizontal construction.

What Is Vertical Construction?

Vertical construction projects are characterized by their vertical stretch, instead of extending horizontally across the ground. They tend to stretch upward and often include complex architecture and engineering to be successful.

Technological advancements have led to the construction of uniquely-designed buildings and structures, which has played a pivotal role in the increased popularity of vertical buildings. On most occasions, vertical construction projects are privately funded, while the government usually takes up most horizontal projects.

Vertical construction projects come in different shapes and sizes, and even more importantly, are meant to serve specific purposes. Below is an in-depth discussion of the main types of vertical construction.

1. Buildings

Over the years, the construction of vertical buildings has increased exponentially, especially as engineers and architects look to create more value despite working with limited spaces.

Vertical construction projects are extremely popular in urban areas where there is a high demand for offices and homes but little space to work with. Skyscrapers have incorporated modern technology in their design, which has allowed them to come in unique shapes and sizes.To provide value without occupying too much horizontal space (expensive and mostly unavailable in central business districts), construction companies have opted to integrate new-age designs in constructing offices and apartments.

2. Towers

Due to their tall (mostly) design and reduced surface area, towers make great examples of vertical construction. While towers are often put to various uses, they aren’t usually meant for habitation like buildings. Instead, the strategic height of towers enables them to be used for visibility.

Towers can be used for telecommunication purposes, as observation structures for leisure, defensive purposes, and even for safety purposes. Tower construction often hinges on the purpose of construction and can take either a couple of weeks to months to complete.

Tower construction usually requires attention to detail, mostly to eliminate issues such as exceeding the overall compressive load, the risk of buckling, and the challenges associated with dynamic loads such as vortex shedding, varying winds, and even seismic disturbances.

As a result, the construction of towers usually takes place under the supervision of experienced engineers and architects to ensure the structure can resist different types of loads. And although towers aren’t used for housing people, architects and engineers must work hard to ensure the structure is safe enough to eliminate the risk of falling over and destroying property or even injuring people.

3. Billboards

While not as large as buildings or towers, billboards are also classified as vertical construction. That is, for the structure to remain sturdy, it must be constructed and supported by steel. Billboards usually have three primary components: the steel (for supporting the frame), the artwork that bears the advertisement, and electrical equipment for special effects and lighting.

Steel plays an important role in the installation of billboards. And although the I-beams (that make the frame) often come pre-installed, they still must be set up on the mounting pole on site. Before installing the mounting pole, an assigned subcontractor must drill a hole in the designated spot.

4. Vertical Lift Bridges

Although a lift bridge is often classified as horizontal construction, the bridge’s upward movement and the need to provide enough vertical support make it a type of vertical construction. These bridges often use towers equipped with counterweights.

Some bridges have extremely high deck heights, making them hybrids of vertical and horizontal construction. Therefore, when dealing with bridges with long spans and deck heights, architects and engineers must be extra careful to ensure the bridge is solid enough to handle different types of loads.

5. Site Work/Tower Cranes

Another important but often overlooked type of vertical construction is site work. When constructing vertical projects, construction engineers must set up tower cranes to lift the heavy loads from the bottom of the site to the top of the building.

Tower cranes require strong and sturdy bases, which explains why installation must be counterchecked for any weaknesses before concrete is poured onto the bored hole. A steel cage is then placed on the hole, which is later reinforced with preformed walls. After the walls have been set up, the base is then backfilled and compacted to ensure the base is solid enough to support the tower.

It’s crucial to set up safe and sturdy towers on construction sites since they play a huge role in determining the overall safety of construction workers. Towers meant for site work must be examined and approved by a certified quality control technician to ensure its sturdy and safe enough for use.

What Makes Vertical Construction Different From Horizontal Construction?

As suggested by the name, horizontal construction involves buildings or structures that occupy a greater surface area horizontally than vertically. These structures are usually wider and longer than they’re tall. Some examples of horizontal construction include railways, roads, and bridges. Fiber optics, electric lines, and transmission facilities are other common examples of horizontal construction.

Below are some of the main differences between vertical and horizontal types of construction.

Reliant on Architectural Design

Besides the structure’s total load, tall buildings need to resist elements such as high-pressure winds, which tend to increase with the height of structures. Therefore, the role of an architect in ensuring structures are safe and resistant to different types of loads is greater in vertical construction as opposed to their horizontal counterparts.

Requires Great Coordination

Vertical construction projects usually require greater coordination between experts. Professionals like civil engineers, architects, mechanical and electrical engineers must all coordinate. On the other hand, horizontal construction requires less coordination except for the lead engineers.

Have Many Critical Activities Under the Critical Path

In vertical construction, any delays in the critical activities always result in delays in the other activities, hence the project completion dates. Horizontal construction projects don’t have as many critical activities. They are usually characterized by tasks that can be completed independently without leading to any delays in initially set project completion dates.

Have Higher Risks

The risks (both financial and safety) are usually high in vertical construction. Skyscrapers usually have large numbers of floors, which contributes to the overall safety risks during construction. The investment required in terms of steel welding, site preparation, and materials is usually higher in vertical projects.

Final Takeaway

There are a wide range of vertical construction types, however, the most common include skyscrapers and towers. These buildings tend to extend to great heights. There must be collaboration from different experts when dealing with vertical construction due to the little room for error. Construction engineers and architects must work together to ensure everything goes according to plan without compromising on-site safety.


By Giovanni Valle

Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.

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