Starting at Westminster Bridge and moving east along London’s Southbank, a long walkway flanks a series of green areas, public spaces, eateries and entertainment facilities as well as several iconic heritage and modern architectures like the National Theatre and Tate Modern. The area near London Bridge and the station of the same name was the location where, in the early years of the new millennium, London property developer, Sellar Property Group, staked its future on a plan to build a huge skyscraper on a site it owned next to the railway lines of London Bridge Station. The fairly small plot was occupied by Southwark Towers, an office complex built in the 1970s and subsequently demolished to leave room for the new project: a ‘vertical city’, a second office block and public pedestrian areas. From the start, the complex was designed to connect seamlessly with the nearby London Bridge transport hub where railway, subway and bus services converge.
310 m / 1017 ft
95 stories tall
Designing and building the glazed envelope was one of the key challenges of the whole project on account of the building’s irregular shape and the uncompromising client requirement for highly transparent façades but also excellent energy efficiency. To comply with the brief, only extra-clear low-iron glass was used and the glazing panels were installed to oversail the steel frames, concealing them from the outside and reducing their visual impact. The initial project was for an active envelope with an integrated mechanical ventilation system. But new regulations introduced in 2006 would have required low-speed mechanical ventilators and a system of large section ducts that would not have allowed the surface transparency demanded. It was therefore decided to create a passive double-skin ventilated façade and place in the cavity a series of motorized fiberglass roller blinds actuated by the building’s automation system.
Design & engineering, manufacturing and installation of over 55,700 sqm (600,000 sq ft) of different architectural envelope components. Design & engineering, manufacturing, and installation of special interior partitions for the winter garden areas.
High performance and transparency: the challenge of the glazed envelope
The Shard’s plan is an irregular, eight-sided polygon, each segment, or ‘shard’, of glass sloping in a different direction, and each diversely exposed to the sun. The eight glazed façades gradually taper as they proceed to the tip of the building. They resemble a monumental castle of cards, each successive layer leaning inwards at various angles. The special feature of this glass castle is that the shards never touch each other, remaining independent to avoid the effects of wind load on large expanses of converging flat glass surfaces. An inner curtain wall wraps around the building ‘filling in’ the gaps left by the outer shards, and with these, creating a double-skin façade. Winter gardens and meeting rooms occupy the ‘fracture’ areas where the external shards do not meet.
The asymmetric design of the Shard’s volume meant a highly complex glazed envelope design. The eight ‘shards’ entailed the design, engineering, manufacturing, and installation of around 11,000 units, many of them one-off production elements.
The Shard’s envelope is a passive double-skin system. This was necessary to meet the extremely high transparency requirement, which would not have been possible with an active double-skin façade with a mechanical ventilation system. By no means a simple design, with no few execution challenges, the envelope’s beauty lies in its very complexity. The Shard has some fourteen different types of façade: Shard Cladding, Shard Skirt Cladding, Spire Cladding, Back-Pack Plant Cladding, Fracture Cladding, Winter-garden Cladding, Wing Wall Façade, Roof Steps and Soffits, Lower Level Façade Curtain Wall Systems, Canopies, Internal Wall System Lobby, Steel Framed Wall, Unitized Lower Level Cladding, Lower Level Louvre Cladding.
There are also special items that can be identified around the building and need extra attention in regard to operation and maintenance: Fracture Vents, Smoke Vents, Blinds in Shard Cladding Cavity, External Blinds in Lower Level Façade Curtain Wall Systems, Building Maintenance Unit (BMU) Doors in Shard Cladding, BMU Doors in Fracture Cladding, Doors and Revolving Doors.
Tallest building in Western Europe
A mixed-use vertical city
8 slightly angled glass shards
Passive double-skin façade
‘Open edge’ façades
11,000 customized façade glass units
22,000 extra-clear glass panels
Maximum transparency, energy efficiency and comfort
Implementation of some of the most innovative building envelope technology
OWNER: LBQ Limited
DEVELOPER & JOINT OWNER: Sellar Property Group
ARCHITECT: Renzo Piano Building Workshop, architects in collaboration with Adamson Associates Architects
The location of the small site in a densely built up area in the center of the city meant there was limited space for layup of materials and severe constraints on loading and unloading of supplies. This baseline situation put all The Shard construction operators to the test. All the construction and supply phases had to be meticulously coordinated, from the scheduling of production in manufacturing plants to shipping, handling and subsequent installation of materials.
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