With its distinctive shape, large public viewing deck and three floors of sky gardens as well as prime Central London location, 20 Fenchurch Street, a 37-story commercial skyscraper affectionately called 'walkie talkie', was destined to be the pride and joy of the city when completed in 2014. However, a slight design oversight has turned the building into a heat-trapping magnet or as the public now like to call it a 'walkie scorchie'.
The problem is being caused by two design decisions - The architect's desire to create a top-heavy building so that there would be more space on the upper floors which are generally in higher demand, and the use of double and triple glazed panelized aluminum cladding for the building's exterior. This has resulted in a slightly concave surface, which means that when the sun is at a certain angle, the building acts like a curved mirror that concentrates all light rays and reflects them onto the street below similar to how one would use a magnifying glass to start a fire.
So how bad can the heat it reflects be? Apparently hot enough to melt the panels along one side of local businessman Martin Lindsay's parked jaguar, burn a hole into the welcome mat outside Re Style barber shop and even cause the tiles outside the Viet cafe to fall off. And these, are just some of the issues that have been reported. People that have experienced the heat first hand say that the areas that are victim to 'walkie scorchie's' wrath can sport temperatures as high as 194°F (93°C)!
According to the skyscraper's developer, this phenomenon that occurs for about two hours each day, is caused by the current elevation of the sun. They believe that the situation will alleviate itself in a couple of weeks, when the sun's position changes.
But even so, something has to be done to rectify this 'scorching' mistake. For now they have blocked out the parking spots that get the worst heat and are also planning to build a scaffold around the yet to be completed $400mm USD skyscraper. As to how they will fix the issue permanently, so that the 'walkie talkie' doesn't turn into a 'walkie scorchie' every year, is something that still has to be resolved.
While the fact that all the experts involved with the skyscraper never anticipated this issue is in itself a little surprising, what is even more so is that New York-based Rafael Vinoly architects responsible for the design of 20 Fenchurch Street have made the same mistake before with equally dazzling Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas.There, the special glass reflected right onto the pool, scorching the hair off guest's heads and even burning plastic bags! The issue was solved at a great expense by applying plastic films to the glass to lower the reflectivity and adding more foliage and shade areas to the pool deck. One would think that the architects would have learnt from that costly mistake - But apparently not! Now you see why paying attention to those basic science concepts is so important?
Resources: Dailymail.co.uk, guardian.co.uk, theaustrlian.com.au