Innovation Station – Pearl River Tower

Innovation Station – Pearl River Tower

12th July 2017

A while ago we published a fascinating article on the world’s tallest building to date following a trip to Dubai by one of our team members.  We found the article so interesting that we’ve decided to look for some more tall or unusual buildings to entertain our readers and include on our blogroll some regular Innovation Station articles.  While most of us probably work on more mundane projects, it’s always fun (to say nothing of an educational experience) to take a look at some of the cutting edge projects around the world.

Today we’re going to take a look at the Pearl River Tower in the city of Guangzhou, China.  The 309 metre tall tower is a 71 storey skyscraper that was designed with energy conservation in mind and includes wind turbines, solar collectors, photovoltaic cells, underfloor aircon and radiant heating and cooling ceilings.  It is currently one of the most environment-friendly buildings on the planet and a flagship of sustainable design.

Its environmental claims to fame include:

·         Being the largest radiant cooled office building in the world

·         It’s the most energy efficient super tall building in the world

·         The tower is a shining example of China’s goal to reduce the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP in 2020 by 40 – 45% compared with the level of 2005.

Pearl River Tower’s architecture and engineering were performed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill with Adrian D. Smith and Gordon Gill (now AS+GG as architects.  Ground breaking began in September, 2006 and the construction was completed in March, 2011. 

The Tower is corporate headquarters for CNTC Guangdong Tobacco Company which owns the building.  The building’s sustainable design features enable a 58% energy usage reduction compared with similar standalone buildings.  The building would have been totally carbon neutral and able to sell power back to its surrounding neighbourhood if the planned micro-turbines had been installed into the building.  However, the local power company in Guangzhou does not allow independent energy producers to sell back electricity to the grid.  Without this financial incentive to add the micro-turbines, developers removed them from the original design. 

Still, the 2.3 million square-foot tower has redefined what is possible when it comes to sustainable design, incorporated the very latest sustainable technology and engineering advancements.  The unique shape of the building combined with the wind and seismic loads imposed on it has required the use of both steel and reinforce concrete structural systems.  As for the sustainable elements of the design, although many have been incorporated individually into skyscrapers in other parts of the world, they were used collectively for the very first time in Pearl River Tower.

In 2015 Pearl River Tower was the recipient of the American Institute of Architects Chicago (AIA Chicago)’s Design Excellence Award.  The building has been shaped to significantly enhance airflow and increase turbine performance.  At night, LED lights change colour to indicate the amount of wind energy being created in a clear demonstration of its eco-friendly performance.