The skyscraper of the future won't cast a shadow
Growing cities around the world are going up rather than out, leading to taller and taller skyscrapers. The new era of the mega-skyscraper has bought a more efficient way of building homes, offices and retail malls, but has also cast a shadow (quite literally) on the streets below, much to the ire of people living and working below. The solution: buildings that work together to reflect light and thus minimise shade on the ground. This new architectural marvel could mean that we no longer have to live in the shadows of big business.
About 250 skyscrapers are slated to redraw London’s skyline in the near future - each with its own dark imprint on the streets below - so architects at the firm NBBJ decided to see if they could come up with an entirely shadowless building.
The London-based firm used computer modelling to design a pair of buildings, one of which works like a gigantic, curved mirror. The glass surface of the northernmost building reflects light down into the shadow cast by its southern partner. And the carefully defined curve of that glass allows the reflected light to follow the shadow throughout the day. Note that the reflected light is diffused so it won’t burn or blind those on the ground. “The relationship between the sun and shadow is the relationship between the two buildings,” says Christian Coop, NBBJ’s design director.
To come up with that shape, the architects entered various building requirements - like footprints for office and living space - into design software called Rhinoceros. Then they told the program to generate designs that maximize the light reflected onto the ground. The computer tests out every possible shape and delivers the best ones. After several iterations, they finally got a shape they liked. The final design, with a thin base expanding as it climbs, reduces shade by up to 60 percent.
The architects designed this particular concept as a potential pair of towers in Greenwich, England, right on the Prime Meridian. But Coop points out that the software can be used to build any skyscraper anywhere. All you need to do is change the inputs: when and where the sun passes overhead at your location. The approach could be helpful in places like New York, where residents have resisted the construction of several new skyscrapers that they say will plunge Central Park into shadow. And it’ll be useful in developing countries like China and India, where new skyscrapers are going up at a rapid pace. “More skyscrapers is something of an inevitability,” says Daniel Safarik, a spokesperson at the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. “We’re not going back to an agrarian lifestyle.”
Although the idea of reflecting sunlight to brighten up shadows isn’t new (it’s even been used to light up an entire town), more of these kinds of designs are still needed. Sydney’s One Central Park has moveable mirrors that reflect light onto shaded areas below or block the sun during the hot summer. And in November, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat named the 363-foot high structure the best tall building in the world. “It’s definitely high time for this type of design to be baked into the building so it can play well with the environment,” Safarik says. “It should be standard practice.” Maybe soon, every tall building will brighten up your day.
Collaborate to avoid commercial risks and systemic failures
Clients should work collaboratively to minimise commercial risks and avoid inappropriate risk transfer as this will not only lead to a negative outcome on individual contracts but also systemic failure in a fragile market, the Construction Leadership Council has warned.
The CLC, in collaboration with NEC, has today published joint guidance to industry and clients on dealing with and accommodating the impact of Covid-19 on work under NEC4 contracts.
The guidance adds to the suite of outputs from the CLC’s Business Models: Contractual Best Practice group which has routinely called for strategic collaboration between clients and the supply chain to avoid systemic market failures and compromised project delivery.
The guidance focuses on the NEC4 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC), although it can also be applied to the NEC4 Engineering and Construction Subcontract (ECS), NEC3 ECC and ECS, subject to some amends which are outlined within the guidance.
To help clients and the supply chain to collaborate, the joint guidance offers support in navigating a number of circumstances within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, including: Act of prevention; Project Manager’s instructions; Compensation events; Evaluation of a COVID-19 Related Compensation Event; Working Areas; Resource Utilisation; and Dealing with risk on future contracts.
Steve Bratt, Chair of the CLC’s Business Models Workstream said this guidance was developed in response to a series of questions which were raised with regard to projects impacted by Covid-19 operating under NEC contracts.
“As industry continues to manage the challenges of Covid-19, we are becoming increasingly concerned that many outstanding disputes remain unresolved and much uncertainty exists with regard to future contracts," he said. "We are therefore keen to do all we can to ensure clients work with their supply chains to fairly and collaboratively manage the commercial risks caused by Covid-19. Safety is paramount, but collaborative risk sharing will ensure secure project delivery and a long-term sustainable industry.”
Covid-19, safe working procedures and wider disruption has presented all parties with unquantifiable and unmanageable risks and costs, he added. Traditional behaviours such as inappropriate risk transfer will not only lead to a negative outcome on individual contracts but will almost certainly lead to systemic failure in a fragile market seeking to build back greener and better.
Peter Higgins, Chairman of the NEC4 Contract Board said NEC is pleased to have worked with the Construction Leadership Council in preparing this advice on dealing with covid-related issues under NEC contracts. "NEC has always been a contract focusing on the parties working together to achieve a successful contract, and this guidance will help in managing collaboratively the risks which have arisen from COVID-19," he said.
Industry leaders have called for acceleration of rules relaxing requirements for COVID-19 self-isolation for double-vaccinated workers. Currently the rules will only be relaxed on August 16.
CLC co-chair Andy Mitchell said it has received reports from across the industry of plants, sites and offices having to wind down activities as staff have been asked to isolate.
"This is putting very significant pressure on the sector, risking project delivery and even the viability of some firms. Where staff are already fully vaccinated, and recognising that such people will be free to work from 16 August anyway, we are asking the Government to bring forward this date for essential industries like construction, ensuring that the industry doesn’t grind to a halt."
An RICS survey of the global construction sector found over 40% of professionals reporting an increase in disputes since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. By contrast, fewer than 3% of respondents noted a fall in disputes over the same time, suggesting that the pandemic is exerting further pressure on an already stressed industry.