Shanghai Tower: Sustainable Strategies in a Super Tall Building
Dan Winey in Design in Asia, San Francisco, Shanghai Tower, Shanghai Tower, Shanghai Tower Construction Update, Shanghai Tower Lead Architect Jun Xia, Tall Building Design, Tall Buildings
Shanghai Tower

When completed in 2014, Shanghai Tower will be the signature icon of the city’s Lujiazui district, one of East Asia’s leading financial centers.

One of the questions I constantly ask myself is whether a building that has the scale and magnitude of Shanghai Tower can really be considered sustainable in terms of design. From a personal viewpoint, I do not believe the answer to the question of sustainable design is one that is solved by achieving some level of LEED or other certification by an outside agency. I do believe that having these measures forces us to think more clearly about design solutions and provides goals for the design and engineering community. These goals, however, tend to be at a level that rarely challenges us in a significant way.

One of the original goals of the Shanghai Tower was to design the most sustainable super high rise building in the world. This goal, in itself, was not particularly lofty in the sense that most buildings of this type are more about creating an iconic symbol and making a statement than creating sustainable communities. Consequently, our design team's goal was to design a truly sustainable community within the context of a high rise building.

This became the fundamental driving force behind the larger sustainable conceptual ideas. We wanted a building that was open to the community, not closed, and one that had strong cultural ties to the people of Shanghai. We wanted the building to reflect the history, diversity, and fabric of the city, and our design reinforced these ideas.

Shanghai Tower

A critical aspect of Shanghai Tower's design is the transparent, second skin that will wrap around the entire building.

Shanghai is a city of parks and the building’s double skin allows for the development of seven "vertical parks" with fourteen story atrium spaces. Each of these park spaces are meant for public use and are capable of hosting artistic, cultural, and other events. They are an ode to city's historic open courtyards and will bring the building's visitors and inhabitants together throughout the day.

Shanghai Tower

The continuous glass skin will admit the maximum amount of daylight into the atriums, reducing the need for artificial lighting. The glass also has a spectrally selective low-E coating that will help reduce heating and cooling loads.

Designing a double skin building of this scale with atrium space of this size presents a huge engineering challenge. But its impact, in terms of both sustainable design and ensuring the building functions as a community instead of a typical office space, is very significant. Shanghai City will be a city within a city with a strong emphasis on public space and the importance of community.

Shanghai Tower

From the most recent photographs you can begin to see how the structure will support the double skin of the building. The trusses begin to give you an idea of the large distances between the two walls—in some cases about 20 meters—required to create the park spaces. These trusses are on average about 12 meters deep and the curtain wall will be hung from these trusses.

Shanghai Tower
Dan Winey is a member of Gensler’s Board of Directors and the Regional Managing Principal of our Northwest region. Our offices in Shanghai and Beijing were launched under Dan’s purview, and he’s been a key member of our Shanghai Tower team from initial project win through construction. Contact him at
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