Five Rather Interesting Skyscraper Patents

Five Rather Interesting Skyscraper Patents

Architects, engineers and developers might not be aware of it but the skyscraper is actually patented! In 1881, Minnesota-based architect Leroy Sunderland Buffington claimed to have invented the idea of building skyscrapers by using load-bearing iron frames. He applied for a patent in November 1887 and received it in May 1888. Contrary to some of today’s copyright trolls, Buffington wasn’t able to monetize any of that. One possible reason is that load-bearing iron frames have been around since 1797 and that the building which made the fireproof metal frame famous had already been built in 1884. The patent, labeled publication number US383170, is still in the records and thanks to Google Patents can be perused online.

This brings us to the topic of the day, which are skyscraper-related patents. When you browse the results for skyscraper in Google Patent Search, you see a good number of inventions dealing with safety, security, construction and whatnot. Here is an overview of some of the more interesting patents.

Double Shaft Elevator
At first glance this looks like a simple system of two elevators, but the innovation presented is that the cables of the cabins are interconnected, meaning that if one goes down, the other one goes up. Not sure what the usefulness of that is, but if you had the same idea, you now know it already belongs to the Chinese. Patent #: WO 2011138984 A1.

Automatic Window Washer and Dryer
Washing the windows of a skyscraper is a labor intensive, and sometimes rather exciting job so I understand the motives of inventing a machine that does that for you. However, the two main problems are the phrase “the more nuts and bolts , the more maintenance” (I actually made that up, but I’m sure you get the idea) and perhaps more important, you’re pretty much limited to a very squared and straight-upward design, which isn’t exactly today’s prefered style. Patent #: US 3298052 A

Three-Dimensional Poster Depicting a Cityscape
This is an idea for something of a poster of a skyline that is composed out of several layers, which give it a bit of a three dimensional look. The originality factor of this is so well below par I’m surprised someone invested the typical costs of $2,500 to file for a patent. Patent #: US D654827 S1.

Hollow Canopy
One thing you want to ask yourself when designing a skyscraper is what the wind will do when it hits your building. A likely answer is: go down, but with pedestrians walking there you don’t want them all to go 23 skidoo. The easy solution is to add a canopy above the street level which diverts the wind horizontally. Again, not sure what the added bonus is of a hollow version of a canopy, but if you add one to your skyscraper, now that design has been patented since 1975. Patent #: US 3866363 A.

Emergency Escape Device for High-Rise Building
In the wake of 9/11, some nimble minds were fast to get their idea for an evacuation system patented. None of these were ever taken into mass production, as skyscrapers are generally safe when it comes to getting people out, plus there is only so much you can do against planes flying into tall buildings. Still the idea of being up there with no way to go is scary enough to address the issue anyway. Here is a proposal that was patented in 1974 and honestly it looks like something out of a Mad Magazine. The problem with these is not only their hideous impact on the architecture, but that using one of these probably frightens more people then the idea of sit still and wait for the fire brigade to arrive. Patent #: US 3831711 A.

Well, there is more where that came from, but I guess today’s lesson is that no idea is too odd to be patented!

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