[Q&A]: What is 'Shell & Core' concept/methodology in Civil Engineering & Construction parlance?

One of BnM's active subscribers, Chan Gul, asks via email...
What is Shell and Core Construction?

Team BnM answers...

With the building heights increasing and further increasing than what they used to be a century ago, and with newer methodologies being adopted for faster and safer construction practices the world over-- the integral civil engineering aspects like conceptualization, design, construction, interiors, etc. have also changed to suit pace.

e all have been knowing since we look back into modern history, how buildings and houses were constructed as load bearing structures with foundations and walls predominantly constructed in stone and/or brick masonry.

ith further advancement of time and technology, reinforced cement concrete (RCC)/ structural steel/ structural steel+reinforced cement concrete composite elements formed framed structures became common, which were more stable and well engineered units. These framed structures adopted a typical construction pattern of casting the foundations, followed by casting the columns and beam networks, and eventually followed by casting of the intermediate and/or roof slabs. This engineering concept allowed the number of stories to increase over a particular plan area, which we normally call as multistoried buildings.

owever, now that the buildings the world over registering record-breaking heights while construction agencies finding ways to optimize costs and time curves involved, systems were designed in a fashion that allowed minimizing the construction time involved in raising the buildings without breaking the construction flow in respect of attaining the full building height (i.e., notwithstanding how many stories are there in the design, and how many slabs are to be cast in between for which, by conventional methods, the formwork has to be stopped at slab soffit (bottom) level, and then re-started post concreting and setting of the floor/roof slabs).


SHELL & CORE design and construction concept
, on the other hand, designs the buildings and structures in such a way that allows the complete formwork (also called shuttering work in some parts of the world) for a particular level in plan to be made as a single unit that is slipped upwards with the help of 'jack & lift system' while concreting of the structural elements takes place continuously and gradually without stopping at intermediate floor levels


nder this concept of 'shell and core' design and construction, the buildings structures are defined under broad heads as
  • CORE -- (the internal column-beam-wall systems that outline the various inside units on one particular floor level of the building in plan/layout, and which demarcate the internal boundaries of the rooms, halls, sanitary areas, ventilation areas (like passages, walkways, staircases, etc.)
  • SHELL -- (the outermost peripheral wall system that ultimately provides outermost walled covering to the entire building in totality)
  • INFILLS or INTERIOR ELEMENTS or MINOR ELEMENTS -- (these are the non-structural elements of the building that serve the essential purpose of architectural detailing units, finishing items, false partitions, and the likes)
To sum it up, the 'Shell and Core' building concept is to plan, design and build the core (inside) building which is covered or surrounded by shell (perimeter). Once the core and shell building elements are constructed, the internal architectural elements can be taken up gradually and continually.


ome of the major advantages of using the 'shell and core' concept are:
  • speeds up the whole design & build process
  • facilitates economic and fast track design and construction method that saves a lot of time, efforts, and thereby, cost
  • helps in planning, designing and constructing building layouts that optimally utilizes the overall available space
  • most importantly, results in development of Green Buildings that are not only environment friendly, but also use minimal energy on a sustained basis
  • such designs are suited for commercial buildings the most, besides residential & multi-storied builds of course, since it allows the internal smaller unit hirer/ purchaser to plan, design and build their own dwellings capitalizing upon the green strategies and methodologies adopted and implemented by the main property developers. This is important, since the smaller players can use the technology and 'greener' advantages of the building without worrying about exorbitant costs that otherwise could have not let them to adopt methods underlying the important of 'going-green'

Ask us in case you also have any query relating to civil engineering, architecture, building design & construction, interiors, etc.
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Image sources: Image-1 (stephenson-ssc.co.uk) & Image-2 (jfe-steel.co.jp)

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