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New skyscrapers will last for generations, leading engineer warns


London must pay special attention to the quality and location of its new tall buildings because they will last for hundreds of years, a leading structural engineer has warned

WSP director Bill Price, who has spent most of the past decade working on the Shard and whose firm worked on the 544m–high One World Trade Center in New York, also said that the city’s leaders should apply increasing scrutiny to buildings as their height increases.

‘For towers of above 150m in the UK, there is very little precedent for demolition and if you increase that to 200m, virtually no buildings have been demolished,’ he said. ‘A normal building might last for 60 years, but towers have to be extremely robust to stand up, and those above 40 storeys could easily last 100 to 200 years.

‘These buildings are very expensive to remove, and in the meantime have a very big impact on the city. Therefore, they deserve special consideration. For every 50m you add, more and more scrutiny should be applied.’

Price attended a conference on tall buildings held at New London Architecture last week, during which a number of speakers expressed concern about the impact of more than 200 towers in the pipeline for London.

But Colin Wilson, strategic planning manager at the Greater London Authority, strongly denied that the new towers in London were not being carefully considered and publicly discussed under the existing planning system.


Readers' comments (2)

  • Geoff Williams

    The London Skyline is a topic of great concern, especially relating to the possibility of Fire in a high-rise building. Buildings get taller and the consequential risk of fire increases with every additional floor. Fire fighting, externally, is limited and gridlock streets makes the task even more hazardous. It must be born in mind that 40% of the fires globally are the result of electric cable malfunction. Accordingly, fire management and modern predictable communication systems, have to be, absolutely, fit for purpose but are the cable systems employed likely to perform, as one would expect, in real fire conditions? That is the question.
    The common understanding amongst most specifiers, sellers, installers and users of electrical cables, which are manufactured to meet the requirements of common fire Performance tests like: Flame retardance tests: Smoke obscuration tests, Halogen and acid gas emission tests, is that the cables they subsequently specify, buy and use will provide a similar performance under real fire scenarios that the test methods suggest. Unless the cables are exposed exactly to the same conditions, as documented in the test, which is unlikely, this is not likely to be the case and with disturbing consequences.
    Three technical documents are available, on request, from the author, Richard Hosier, relating to “Electric Cables Fire Performance”, which may be of interest to AJ readers on the performance of electric cables in real fire conditions. (Flame Propagation, Fire Load, and Life Span). We would be pleased to discuss and modify the articles, which we believe should have greater publicity. The Great Fire of London is a chapter in the great City's history, lets all hope that our buildings of today are suitably equipped to deal with a major fire should the situation ever arise in the future A big ask - I'm afraid?
    Geoff Williams
    Business Consultant Fire Management
    MInstMC. MInstM.
    TRM/MICC Group of Companies
    Email: wgwilliams@trmltd.co.uk
    Tel: +44 [0] 1704 214997
    +44 [0] 191 416 8884
    Cell: [0] 7710 525284
    Why not visit You Tube and view the Fire Survival Electric Cable Video!

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  • A long as the architects all have a savvy businesses plans, all will be fine and dandy.

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