I'm writing some fiction which involves the AC in a modern glass curtain skyscraper (50-80 floors?) in an American city failing for a period of weeks, maybe even for up to two months.

Could anybody attempt to predict the type of conditions which one might encounter inside? Presumably it would be extremely hot and possibly humid. Would there be a build-up of condensation? Would this create opportunities for mildew and mold? I'm guessing that this (and the heat) would make it difficult for complex electronics to continue to work reliably under these conditions (unless hardened, somehow)?

As it seems possible to detach glass pane modules in these buildings, if not smash the individual panes (due to multiple panes, lamination, etc), one imagines that some folks might attempt to do so in order to create ventilation of some kind. Would this create some kind of vortex-like condition where a hot wind would blow up through the structure and out through the now-open blocks of space in the walls?

My research online so far seems to mainly turn up historical examples and best practices, rather than answer my what-ifs...!





Would appreciate if anybody with relevant skills/experience can provide answers (or point me in the direction of better research)!

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    $\begingroup$ Open the doors at the bottom and windows at the top and you have a chimney - see Richard Hammond about the Burg El Arab... $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jul 14, 2021 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ @SolarMike - Watching a documentary on the subject now! I guessed there would be a chimney-like effect, but the Burj Al Arab has a single large atrium - would you still get that effect in a building that was more corridor and shaft and vent? Could air from the parking lot get pullet up to the top floors, etc...? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 1:03
  • $\begingroup$ Actually there are design considerations to prevent the elevator shafts from becoming air extractors/chimneys. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 2:57
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean the ventilation system goes down, or just the cooling loop? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ @SolarMike I know of no modern building, even those with windows that open, that have open (air) paths from doors at ground level to windows. You'll have to open every office door, every fire escape door, etc, and even then I'm skeptical you'll get sufficient airflow to keep the typical office supplied with healthy air. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 12:00


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