The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

Friday, 14 February 2014 13:13cat

Developers Submit Plan to fix Walkie Talkie Skyscraper’s Sun Ray Problems

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The Walkie Talkie Building The Walkie Talkie Building Photo by: Martin Bagot

Developer Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group submitted a plan on Wednesday to fix the “Death Ray” coming from sunlight bouncing off the Walkie Talkie building. The 160-meter, 34-story office building located at 20 Fenchurch Street in London is currently under construction. Last fall, the skyscraper briefly became a tourist destination due to the car-melting light beam cast by the tower. The beam reached temperatures as high as 110 degrees Celsius in September, and it melted parts of parked cars and even set fire to a doormat at a barbershop. Temporary scaffolding was erected across the street to prevent the sun’s rays from causing damage to nearby buildings and pedestrians, and all parking spots were fenced off so no other cars would be melted.

The building’s developers believe a brise soleil system will fix the problem. In architecture, brise soleil refers to a number of different permanent sun-shading structures. According to them, the brise soleil system would install aluminum fins on the building between floors three and 34, and it will prevent solar glare by absorbing sunlight. The Walkie Talkie building’s exterior is curved and some of the glass on the higher stories is curved down towards the street. This design traps sunrays and has a magnifying effect. Fortunately, the building only acts as a mirror for roughly two hours per day, and the “Death Ray’s” strength depends on the height of the sun in the sky. The Walkie Talkie building is not the only building to experience this phenomenon. In 2003, light reflecting off the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles caused sidewalk temperatures to reach 60 degrees Celsius and the glare affected drivers’ vision. The building’s owners ended up having to shut down the exterior panels of the Concert Hall to reduce the glare. Many other lesser-known examples of this problem also exist.

If approved, the brise soleil system will take six months to install and cost less than $10 million. The £200 million Walkie Talkie building is currently 64 percent leased, and the developers are awaiting legal confirmation on another 23 percent. The scheduled completion date is in April. This is not the first time the building has come under scrutiny. The skyscraper was supposed to be 200 meters tall originally, but many people complained that it would obstruct the views of nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. Despite reducing the building’s height, many London residents continued to complain about the building until a 2007 public inquiry ruled in favor of the developers and the Walkie Talkie building was granted full planning permission. The building’s main feature is a rooftop garden that will be the highest public park in London once finished. People will be able to access the park by two express elevators, and they will also be able to eat at a café, bar, and restaurant with great views of London. 

Sources: Sydney Morning Herald BBC

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