With the introduction of the elevator (lift) and less expensive, more available building materials, high-rise structures became a reality. Reinforced concrete and steel are the materials utilized in high-rise building structural systems. Concrete is used because of its ease of preparation and handling, while steel is used due to its strength and resistance to corrosion.
The elevator was an important factor in allowing for higher-rise construction. Before its introduction, the limit on how high a building could be was determined by the ability of people to climb stairs. The elevator makes it possible to build much taller structures than would otherwise be possible without requiring escalators or elevators.
Other inventions that have had an impact on high-rise buildings include the fire escape, which allows people to flee upper floors of a building in case of fire; and the window, which provides light and air inside tall buildings.
High-rise buildings have been used for educational institutions, government offices, and businesses. Some famous examples of high-rise buildings include IBM's New York City headquarters, the Chrysler Building, and 2 World Trade Center.
Steel frames were used in the early days of highrise building to allow for the construction of load-bearing walls. The first development that paved the path for skyscrapers was a safe elevator in the nineteenth century. Prior to the invention of safe elevators, rudimentary elevators were utilized, followed by steam-powered elevators. In 1884, the world's first steel-framed high-rise building, the Marquis of Exeter, was completed in London.
After the success of the Marquis of Exeter, other architects began to create buildings using similar designs. In 1889, the Singer Building in New York City was the first tall office building built entirely out of steel frame and glass. It was 105 feet (32 m) tall with space for retail shops at the ground floor and offices on the remaining floors. In 1893, the Equitable Building in New York City became the first tall office building designed specifically for tenants other than banks or insurance companies. It was 860 feet (265 m) tall and it still stands today.
The first high-rise hotel was the Metropolitan Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. It was completed in 1890 and it was 108 feet (33 m) tall. The hotel has been renovated several times since then but it remains one of the city's tallest structures at 230 feet (70 m). In 1895, the Pinnacle Building in Chicago became the first high-rise building where apartments were sold separately from the rest of the building.
Modern skyscrapers are constructed with steel or reinforced concrete frames and glass or polished stone curtain walls. They make use of mechanical devices such as water pumps and elevators. The earliest known tall building is the pyramidal Zuqāʼ in 8th-century Baghdad, Iraq. It was made of wood and covered with clay.
The world's first skyscraper is believed to be the Thomas Edison Building in New York City. It was completed in 1903. Today, more than 95 percent of the world's tallest buildings are composed of iron or steel frames wrapped in sheets of glass or other transparent materials.
The modern skyscraper form was invented in Chicago by Henry Hobson Richardson with his design for the Home Insurance Company building (1888). He introduced several innovations that are still used today, such as an exterior wall of windows and doors, which allows light into the building while providing a view from the street. The Parker House in Boston is considered the first high-rise hotel when it opened in 1887. It had 48 rooms and used steam heating instead of electricity.
By the 1920s, Chicago was again at the forefront of the skyscraper revolution with designs by William Le Baron Jenney and Walter Burley Griffin.
By offering secure transit, the elevator aided in the construction of the skyscraper. The elevator became a vital and central aspect of the design and art used in these buildings as they expanded and got more elaborate. Skyscrapers are large structures built from steel beams and concrete floors stacked one on top of another. As they grow in size, they require additional floors or "lifts" to be constructed above them. The elevator provides this service by allowing people to travel between the different floors of the building.
Other modes of transportation were being invented at the time the elevator was being developed, such as the escalator and the moving walkway. These devices were all attempts to provide a safe and convenient way for people to move around an office building, but none of them were successful enough to replace the elevator. The elevator continues to be the most popular means of vertical transport today, because it is reliable, easy to use, and safe. There have been some recent advances in elevator technology such as digital displays that show the floor number and exit doors, but they are still based on mechanical systems that need to be moved by hand.
The development of the elevator had a major influence on the design and construction of skyscrapers. As buildings grew in size, so did their need for additional floors.