In a previous edition of Explainer, we described how building maintenance units assist important exterior tasks, including window washing and glass replacement. But critical mechanical and electronics equipment is stored on the inside within assigned floors. While skyscrapers typically allocate floors for mechanical use in a predictable pattern throughout the structure, the mechanical penthouse is usually the largest, and it's located at the top of the building. 

The angled roofline of Toronto's Five Condos adds flair to the mechanical penthouse, image by Marcus Mitanis

As mechanical equipment — including heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) — occupies a large amount of valuable floor area, building engineers often try to minimize the space devoted to these utilities. In buildings requiring additional structural support, the core and perimeter columns may be connected via outrigger trusses. These areas would then serve as mechanical floors, as would the space around a tuned mass damper

Translucent glass obscures the mechanical penthouse in Toronto's X2 Condominiums, image by Marcus Mitanis

Hiding the mechanical portions can be aesthetically difficult. They can disrupt the overall facade of the building, so architects must think carefully about how to integrate these essential components into the design. Ornamental elements, opaque materials, and latticework cladding are among the popular choices in the architect's toolkit. 

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