The tube is the name given to the systems where in order to resist lateral loads (wind, seismic, etc.) a building is designed to act like a three-dimensional hollow tube. The system was introduced by Fazlur Rahman Khan while at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's (SOM) Chicago office. The first example of the tube’s use is the 43-story Khan-designed DeWitt-Chestnut Apartment Building in Chicago, Illinois, completed in 1963.
The system can be constructed using steel, concrete, or composite construction (the discrete use of both steel and concrete). It can be used for office, apartment and mixed-use buildings. Most buildings in excess of 40 stories constructed in the United States since the 1960s are of this structural type.
The tube system concept is based on the idea that a building can be designed to resist lateral loads by designing it as a hollow cantilever perpendicular to the ground.
In the simplest incarnation of the tube, the perimeter of the exterior consists of closely spaced columns that are tied together with deep beams through moment connections. This assembly of columns and beams forms a rigid frame that amounts to a dense and strong structural wall along the exterior of the building.
This exterior framing is designed sufficiently strong to resist all lateral loads on the building, thereby allowing the interior of the building to be simply framed for gravity loads. Interior columns are comparatively few and located at the core.
The distance between the exterior and the core frames is spanned with beams or trusses. This maximizes the effectiveness of the perimeter tube by transferring some of the gravity loads within the structure to it and increases its ability to resist overturning due to lateral loads.
Since 1963, a new structural system of framed tubes appeared in skyscraper design and construction.
Fazlur Khan defined the framed tube structure as "a three dimensional space structure composed of three, four, or possibly more frames, braced frames, or shear walls, joined at or near their edges to form a vertical tube-like structural system capable of resisting lateral forces in any direction by cantilevering from the foundation."Closely spaced interconnected exterior columns form the tube. Horizontal loads, for example wind, are supported by the structure as a whole. About half the exterior surface is available for windows. Framed tubes allow fewer interior columns, and so create more usable floor space. Where larger openings like garage doors are required, the tube frame must be interrupted, with transfer girders used to maintain structural integrity.