London’s highest tower, The Shard, is put under the spotlight by Walls and Roofs.

When driving through the streets of London, which are lined with heritage buildings and cobbled streets, it’s hard not to notice the very massive, very modern pieces of shattered glass touching the clouds rising sharply above London Bridge Station. The Shard sparks a lot of emotion among London’s typically conservative people – pride, controversy and, most commonly, awe.

Rising 309.6 metres above the ground, the tower is being sold as a “vertical town” – – containing everything from offices to residential space, a world-class restaurant and the five-star Shangri-La Hotel. The Shard is now the tallest building in the European Union (EU).

The developers, Sellar Property Group (SPG) and London Bridge Quarter (LBQ), believe that the viewing deck on the 72nd floor, aptly called “The View”, will become one of the city’s greatest tourist attractions. Jointly owned by LBQ (of which the state of Qatar is the majority shareholder) and SPG, the R28-billion project received funding from Qatar National Bank.

Design elite
Perhaps the thing that grabs one’s attention most, is the fact that the magnificent building was designed by Renzo Piano, who explains that “London is a city of inspiration and imagination.”

The Shard changes with nature, reflecting in its glass façade whatever mood nature embraces on a specific day. Arguing with his critics, who label The Shard as a monstrosity which takes up too much space in an already overpopulated capital, by rather suggesting its multi-functionality as a way “the city may save land, instead of dispersing, the idea that the city can grow from the inside.”
 
Stacking a series of different systems on top of each other – a concrete foundation, followed by a steel frame for the office floors and the public spaces of the hotel, then another concrete frame for the hotel guest rooms and the residences, significantly reduces the building’s sway, according to William Matthews, the project architect for Renzo Piano’s Building Workshop.

The Shard’s contractor used a “top-down” process that began with a concrete platform at ground level, then built up at the same time as the foundation was being erected below. The process was more expensive, but it cut six months from the schedule.

The Shard’s magic lies in its vertical glass façade, which seems to shatter literally and, figuratively, shatter the preconceived conservative ideas of London.

Piano is famous for designing “bohemian-bourgeois” buildings such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris, which also sparked a wave of controversy in its early days.

Green façade
As would be the case with most buildings that dwarf an entire city, The Shard’s eco credentials are not the first thing that comes to mind. However, according to its developers, The Shard’s construction meets these credentials at every stage of its construction.

The jagged façades start to separate at 20 metres above the ground, each continuing into its own angle. Grey blinds in each panel are activated by solar sensors and stored in red boxes.

Most of the steel used in the construction have been recycled and the concrete makes use of fly-ash. Combined heat and power sources create efficiency across the entire site, which aims to save 10% annually on CO₂ emissions. Additionally, The Shard is integrated with mainline rail, tube and bus hubs, which makes driving between these points unnecessary, and thus lowering overall emissions.

The environmental credentials don’t end there. All the waste from the construction was recycled and the structure achieved an excellent BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating.

A hot topic
The crystalline giant, apart from its structural controversy, also adopts an atypical attitude towards fire precautions.

The Shard is the first building in the United Kingdom (UK) that uses elevators in its evacuation procedures. It adopts a double-decker elevator system on office levels that will see the greatest volume of traffic on a daily basis. This automatically lessens the number of stairs in the building.

The Shard by numbers
1: Ranking on the list of tall buildings in Western Europe.
3: Number of times The Shard is higher than the London Eye.
8: Number of escalators.
44: Number of elevators.
52: Swimming pool level.
72: Occupiable floors.
259: Height of highest occupiable floor (metres).
306: Flights of stairs.
309: Height of the Shard (metres).
11 000: Number of glass panels.
56 000: Area of glass (m²).

The Shard is a well-connected, timeless new architectural wonder of Europe, which focuses the attention of the entire world on a new generation, inspired by the power of imagination and the magnificence of simplicity.