Flying high in London and Dubai 8 January 2020 Back to news index

Small components facilitate the construction of glass giants

Flying high in London and Dubai

Skyscrapers make striking landmarks in the metropolises of the world. They owe much of their radiance and lightness to glass. It helps create impressive panoramas, and provides a cost-effective way to ensure that the as much natural daylight as possible enters the building.

Principal Tower makes its mark

The Principal Tower, which was completed in mid-2019 at the edge of the trendy London arts district Shoreditch, makes a striking impression in the London skyline with its 162 metre tall, elegant glass façade and its 50 floors.
Designed by Foster + Partners, the floors are like permeable layers between the delicate, horizontal façade bands that mark the individual levels. The extensive use of glass in the outer shell was essential for this filigree appearance. Given the scale of the construction in the highly energy-efficient curtain wall façade, it was vital to pay attention to every detail – right down to the spacer bars. Why? In the construction of high-rise buildings, in particular those with a generous amount of glazing, this inconspicuous design element plays an important role. It improves energy efficiency by maintaining a warm temperature at the edge of the sealed unit and keeps the glass panes at a consistently parallel distance.
So when it came to designing the façade glazing, the parties responsible opted for the warm edge spacer bar SWISSPACER ULTIMATE. Due to its special foil, SWISSPACER ULTIMATE prevents gas from escaping from the sealed unit and stops water vapour from penetrating it. Thanks to the use of SWISSPACER ULTIMATE, the approximately 300 residential units in Principal Tower also boast optimal thermal performance. This ensures a significant reduction in energy costs and increases comfort in the rooms. Draughts caused by cold air drops or condensation on the panes are thus prevented effectively.

Pressure equalisation at great heights

The trend towards ever more and ever higher buildings continues unabated all around the world. Currently the tallest building in the world, the 828 metre tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai, is set to be topped in the next few months by the Jeddah Tower, which has been designed to be 1007 metres tall. When it comes to glass façades reaching great heights, architects and designers face a number of challenges, including vast differences in air pressure and temperature between ground level and the top of the building, leading to different climatic stresses in the insulating glass. As a result, the individual panes can bulge outwards at great heights. The opposite effect arises when it is cold and the glass bends inwards.

The bigger the differences in the climatic stresses in a skyscraper, the more it will affect the building's façade. In addition to the unsightly appearance, tension at the glazing edge can lead to a loss of quality and breakage of the glass. Replacing damaged glazing in very tall buildings is associated with extreme effort and corresponding costs.

SWISSPACER Air: a unique solution for tall buildings

To counteract this problem, SWISSPACER has developed an economically viable solution suitable for commercial applications. A small, cylindrical metal sleeve with a built-in membrane, SWISSPACER Air can be invisibly screwed into the spacer bars between the panes of glass. The component helps to gently equalise excess or negative pressure and thus counteracts climatic stresses, thereby ensuring the quality and durability of the installed window and façade elements. What's more, it simplifies the logistics in the construction process, because differences in height between the production location and the place of use or on transport routes can also lead to tension in the insulating glass and damage at the edge of the glass. In insulating glass equipped with the SWISSPACER Air, however, there is continuous pressure equalisation and the components arrive on site without any deterioration in terms of quality. This is a particular advantage when using large quantities of components for skyscrapers.

SWISSPACER products are used in several well-known skyscrapers all over the world – such as in the façade of the MoMA in New York, "The Gherkin" in London, Madrid's Torre del Cristal or the Turning Torso in Malmö. SWISSPACER Air, which has been approved by the German Institute for Structural Engineering (DIBt), opens up new possibilities for the planning, design and construction of future glass giants.