Yuanda Europe’s Most Influential Tall Buildings

This week we are proud to announce that 2 of the buildings that Yuanda Europe worked on are included in the list of the top 50 most influential tall buildings in the world. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (founded 1969) put together an annual award programme to recognise buildings that represent a milestone in thinking or techniques around the construction of skyscrapers.

For the full list of buildings that the Yuanda Group has been involved in that have been recognised by the CTBUH you can click here.

What is the CTBUH?

As mentioned above the CTBUH stands for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. They are a non-profit organisation founded in 1969 to become the worlds leading resource in the inception, design, construction and operation of tall buildings and future cities.

Since 2002 they have run an awards programme that has been used to highlight tall buildings around the world that represent a significant change of thinking or technique. These awards have tracked the progression of skyscrapers, from a square footprint extended into the sky (used predominantly for commercial use) to today’s mix-use (residential & commercial) towers constructed from varying facade materials.

Yuanda Europe’s Winning Tall Buildings

As mentioned in the introduction Yuanda Europe have worked on 2 of the buildings on the list. We’re all familiar with the Leadenhall building (the cheese grater), it’s an icon on the London skyline. Completed back in December 2013 and standing at an impressive 224m tall, it’s hard to miss. The scope of Yuanda’s contract work was the complete external envelope, and internal lift lobbies. This totalled some 70,000m2 of glazed and louvred facade elements.

We’ll do a deep dive into the engineering, design and installation work that went into creating this building in an upcoming news story. Today I want to introduce to you one of our lesser-known contributions to the skyscraper industry, the Al Bahar Towers in Abu Dhabi.

Al Bahar Towers

Al Bahar Towers

Completed mid-2012 the 145m tall towers are located in Abu Dhabi. When taking a look into the forecast for this week, or any other week in Abu Dhabi you’ll likely see 7 days of sunshine ahead, and temperatures anywhere from 35 to 40 degrees Celcius. There are multiple ways in which we can reduce the amount of energy used to cool space but the Al Bahar towers broke new ground with their shading technique.

Sitting 2 metres outside the building’s glass facade is a Mashrabiya shaped active shading system. This screen acts to reduce solar gain and the amount of glare inside the building. At night the shading system contracts (line an unopened umbrella) then as the sun begins to rise and strike the facade the shades on that portion of the facade will open (like an open umbrella) and shade that face of the facade from the sun. The facade is programmed to track the movement of the sun across the sky and expand and contract to provide the maximum amount of shade.

But what exactly was Yuanda Europe’s role in this construction? This week I asked a few questions of one of our team who worked closely on this project, Ives Schüpfer.

How long have you been with the company and what’s your current role?

I was one of the original founders of Yuanda Europe, back in 2008. At the time we worked on the Al Bahar towers I was focusing mainly on Engineering, today after many years of experience a few more tasks have been added to my job description. At Yuanda we try to learn to adapt and become more flexible to help wherever we can.

Al Bahar Towers Yuanda

What was Yuanda’s role on the Al Bahar Towers?

This project was really special, not typical for us at Yuanda Europe (YE). At YE we will typically design, engineer, manufacture and install the facade. Initially, we only supplied the design and engineering of the facade, the local CNYD Team in Abu Dhabi and China were executing the Project.

However, as the project progressed the full team began to realise that we can’t cleanly split the technical part from the execution as so many items needed to be procured to meet the high-end specifications. We needed to make sure that they would all work together.

As a result, our scope grew a lot over the project execution from guiding procurement to overseeing the production of suppliers and the use of some of our own.

What special considerations had to be made for this project?

We had to think differently for this facade design, as it is more of an active machine and less of a typical static facade. The team were initially out of their comfort zone, so we took a lot of time to review our designs to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything.

We had to bring together our top minds and collaborate to really make sure we had thought of everything. The team was spread across several continents and we all had to pull together and work as a team. Something that is sometimes difficult even when we’re all sitting together!

Tall buildings Abu Dhabi

What is unique about the facade?

Clearly the mashrabiya design and its function and control. Besides the obvious mechanics, there were also a lot of hidden things, such as the immense volume of high strength duplex steel casting. This was done in parallel by several suppliers. At the time there was not a single supplier who had enough capacity to deliver the (up to) 2 metre long castings to hold the mashrabiya in place.

It was also the first time Yuanda Europe had developed a software system to control the different settings of an active shading system like this. We had to programme the system to follow the sun and make sure people in the building had the correct level shade while also making sure the building met the high-performance specification.

How did you test the facade to make sure it would work?

This was another of the key challenges, we had to run several tests of the facade to ensure that it would withstand the harsh conditions in Abu Dhabi. We conducted the following testing:

  • We conducted a pretest of the shading functionality in China
  • Then we created a detailed mockup in China
  • Next up was durability testing in a self-developed test chamber we developed here in Basel, Switzerland. This included lifetime cycles, weathering, sandstorms, saltwater, temperature cycles.
  • Dynamic testing in a wind tunnel for the aviation industry close to Paris. They tested for vibration at different wind speeds and directions. Also noise generation, serviceability deflection and ultimately all safety testing.

Yuanda Tall Buildings

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