How Many People Died Building the Sears Tower?

March 16, 2024

In 1973, the city of Chicago welcomed a new addition to its skyline. Towering over the buildings around it, the 110-story Sears Roebuck and Company building became the tallest structure in the world at its completion. Known to many as the Sears Tower, it still holds the title of being the highest rooftop in the Western Hemisphere and the tallest steel-framed skyscraper ever built.

Back when it was the Sears Tower, it was a symbol of American prosperity and success. It stood at a time when Sears was one of the largest retailers in the world with 350,000 employees. It was decided that Sears would need a large office space for its staff and so the architects at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill were commissioned to design a building that could handle this size of workspace. Their structural engineer, Fazlur Rahman Khan, devised a bundled tube design that could handle both wind and gravity.

The bundled tubes helped reduce the amount of steel needed to build such a high structure. They also provided mutual support, reducing lateral sway and the stresses of wind on the building. The unique shape of the tubes also helps the building resist the effects of the Sun's rays by allowing them to reflect and absorb sunlight in different ways depending on where the Sun is in the sky.

In 2009, the Sears Tower was renamed Willis Tower after its current owner, a London-based insurance broker. It is still a majestic icon that is hard to miss in the downtown skyline and is still home to some of the most prominent companies in the country. To honor its principal structural engineer, an adjacent street was named "Fazlur R. Khan Way" on July 7, 1998.


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