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Pearl River Tower

Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou, China by SOM – Skidmore Owings & Merrill, a 71-story building whose unique structural form is one of the most energy-efficient skyscrapers in the world, supertall buildings ever constructed. Its sculpted body directs wind to a pair of openings at its mechanical floors, where traveling winds push turbines that generate energy for the building. Other integrated sustainable elements include solar panels, a double-skin curtain wall, a chilled ceiling system, under-floor ventilation, and daylight harvesting.

Pearl-River-Tower-By-SOM-Skidmore-Owings-Merrill-05-SOM Pearl River Tower / SOM - Skidmore Owings & Merrill

© SOM – Skidmore Owings & Merrill

“The design of the ‘zero-energy’ concept Pearl River Tower reflects the principle of humankind in harmony with the environment. Pearl River’s sleek, aerodynamic form was developed through a careful understanding of solar and wind patterns around the site. The solar path is optimized to use the sun to the building’s advantage. The form of the tower minimizes the interference of wind forces and uses them to relieve the structural burdens imposed by high-wind pressures.” – SOM – Skidmore Owings & Merrill

Pearl-River-Tower-By-SOM-Skidmore-Owings-Merrill-06-Tim-Griffin-759x633 Pearl River Tower / SOM - Skidmore Owings & Merrill

© Tim Griffin

The 213,700-square-meter Pearl River Tower redefines what is possible in sustainable design by incorporating the latest green technology and engineering advancements. The soaring tower’s sculpted body directs wind to a pair of openings at its mechanical floors, where traveling winds push turbines that generate energy for the building. Other integrated sustainable elements include solar panels, a double-skin curtain wall, a chilled ceiling system, under-floor ventilation, and daylight harvesting, all of which contribute to the building’s energy efficiency.

Pearl-River-Tower-By-SOM-Skidmore-Owings-Merrill-07-Tim-Griffin Pearl River Tower / SOM - Skidmore Owings & Merrill

© Tim Griffin

Design & Sustainable energy-efficient skyscrapers features:

  • The building generates its own energy from solar and wind energy. The tower’s aerodynamic form helps to funnel wind at high velocity through the gaping holes located on the plant floors (levels 25/26th and 49/50th), at twice or three times the normal velocity to accelerate the wind turbines. In addition, the building’s double-glass curtain walls are embedded with photovoltaic cells. This has the potential to generate more energy than is needed and any excess energy can be stored in fuel cell batteries. Underneath each floor are water-chilled slabs, which cause “convection current” to drive hot exhaust air into the ventilated curtain wall, cools incoming air and removes excess humidity / water vapour.
  • Energy consumption is reduced by maximizing natural day-lighting, reducing solar gain in air conditioned spaces, retaining rainwater for gray- water usage, and by utilizing solar gain for attaining the building’s hot water supply. The office tower is chilled by a combination of stack venting, radiant panel cooling and chilled beams. Solar collectors integrated into the façades transform the sun’s energy to usable AC current.
Pearl-River-Tower-By-SOM-Skidmore-Owings-Merrill-08-Tim-Griffin-759x434 Pearl River Tower / SOM - Skidmore Owings & Merrill

© Tim Griffin

  • The facade is angled to take full advantage of natural daylight. Embedded photovoltaics gather solar energy while fully glazed low-e glass and integrated shades shield the interior from unwanted heat and glare. The structural curves evident on the facade funnel natural wind currents at their maximum velocity into turbines located on two separate mechanical floors. That energy can be used directly or stored in batteries for later use.
  • The double skin façade, also known as a ventilated façade or active curtainwall, is an alternative when design constraints exist such as a high percentage of glazing area; no external shades; transparent glass choices; or a façade material that requires protection from the elements.
Pearl-River-Tower-By-SOM-Skidmore-Owings-Merrill-render-01 Pearl River Tower / SOM - Skidmore Owings & Merrill

render – © SOM – Skidmore Owings & Merrill

  • The project establishes attractive outdoor spaces that incorporate functional requirements, establish important public gathering places, and connect the project to the larger pedestrian and open-space framework of the city. A canopy of large shade trees provides natural cooling over benched seating areas, and a linear planted “ribbon” along Jinsui Road intercepts the majority of drainage from the buildings. Groves of flowering magnolias along the nor thern perimeter and a major east-west fountain bordered by an allée of columnar trees both provide strong unifying elements. Ponds at both ends of the tower were planted with water lilies and papyrus to simultaneously serve as storage basins for water cooling and as aesthetic landscape features.
Pearl-River-Tower-By-SOM-Skidmore-Owings-Merrill-14-SOM-759x433 Pearl River Tower / SOM - Skidmore Owings & Merrill

© SOM – Skidmore Owings & Merrill

  • While it is the combination of performance-driven curving shape and exposed vertical-axis wind turbines that fuse Pearl River Tower into the public perception of the Guangzhou skyline, its most significant impact is drawn from the level of integration between sustainable design elements. The combination of turbines, shading systems, a double-skin façade with energy-efficient lighting, ventilation, and mechanical design all work together complementarily, resulting in a substantial decrease in the amount of electrical power required to operate the building’s HVAC and lighting systems. Full implementation of Pearl River Tower’s sustainable strategies will result in overall energy savings of approximately 30 percent as compared to a conventionally designed building of the same scale, constructed to conform to the Chinese baseline energy code.
Pearl-River-Tower-By-SOM-Skidmore-Owings-Merrill-15-SOM-800x1200 Pearl River Tower / SOM - Skidmore Owings & Merrill

© SOM – Skidmore Owings & Merrill

SOM – Skidmore Owings & Merrill:

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) and CNTC Guangdong Tobacco Corporation today celebrated the topping out of Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou, China, a 71-story building whose unique structural form is one of the most energy-efficient skyscrapers in the world.

“Today we celebrated the innovative structural form of Pearl River Tower as it moves toward completion,” said Richard Tomlinson, managing partner, SOM, who attended the topping out ceremony. “Our team was able to design to the forward-looking, ambitious goals that were set out, and this milestone in the building development process is a great achievement for CNTC Guangdong Tobacco Corporation, most importantly, this project can only be successful with the support of the land owner, property developers, interior designers, contractors and the local architect and engineer.”

Pearl-River-Tower-By-SOM-Skidmore-Owings-Merrill-17-Tim-Griffin-759x898 Pearl River Tower / SOM - Skidmore Owings & Merrill

© Tim Griffin

The 2.3-million square-foot tower redefines what’s possible in sustainable design by incorporating the latest sustainable technology and engineering advancements. Due to the unique shape of the building, as well as the wind and seismic loads imposed on the tower, the design integrates structural systems, in both steel and reinforced concrete are utilized. Among the structural innovations are integrated wind turbines. These turbines, which are fed from funnel-like openings in the façade, are supported on floor slabs occurring within the opening zones and are laterally braced against the floor above.

Bill Baker, SOM structural engineering partner, commented, “Structural engineering solutions must be integrated with the architectural and sustainable engineering designs so that they are inseparable. It is the collaboration between our structural engineering, architecture and sustainable engineering practices that allow a building such as Pearl River Tower to become reality.”

Pearl-River-Tower-By-SOM-Skidmore-Owings-Merrill-render-02-759x434 Pearl River Tower / SOM - Skidmore Owings & Merrill

render – © SOM – Skidmore Owings & Merrill

A series of other sustainable design and engineering elements, including solar panels, double skin curtain wall, chilled ceiling system, under floor ventilation air, and daylight harvesting all contribute to the building’s energy efficiency. While many of these sustainable attributes have been incorporated individually into skyscrapers around the world, the Pearl River Tower design represents the first time that they are used collectively.

“Pearl River Tower is a special building that stands as a landmark within the Guangzhou skyline,” said Mr. Ye Zhi Ming, General Manager of the Construction Office of Pearl River Tower. “SOM’s pioneering architectural and engineering vision for this office complex has resulted in a sophisticated, environmentally-smart building.”

Pearl-River-Tower-By-SOM-Skidmore-Owings-Merrill-33-SOM-800x1200 Pearl River Tower / SOM - Skidmore Owings & Merrill

© SOM – Skidmore Owings & Merrill

For more than 50 years, SOM has been incorporating sustainable elements into design – long before “green” was called “green.” Throughout SOM’s history, as early as the 1950s, sustainability has been a part of the firm’s design criteria evident in such projects as the Inland Steel Building in Chicago, the Weyerhaeuser Corporate Headquarters in Washington, King Abdul Aziz International Airport – Hajj Terminal and National Commercial Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

With deep architectural, engineering and design expertise in China, SOM has led numerous projects throughout the region, from executing large-scale master urban plans such as the Beijing CBD East Expansion and Chongming Island to designing iconic buildings like China’s first super-tall building, Jin Mao Tower, the current sixth world’s tallest building, Nanjing Greenland Financial Center, Kingold International in Guangzhou and the award-wining Poly Real Estate Headquarters in Guangzhou and Poly Corporation Headquarters.

Pearl-River-Tower-By-SOM-Skidmore-Owings-Merrill-sustainable-diagram-06-759x455 Pearl River Tower / SOM - Skidmore Owings & Merrill

sustainable diagram 06 – © SOM – Skidmore Owings & Merrill

Project Data:

Project name: Pearl River Tower
Location: Zhujiang Avenue West, Guangzhou, China
Coordinates: 23.126740, 113.317600
Type: Office Building, Skyscraper
Building Use: Commercial + Office

Building Details:

  • Site Area: 10,635 sqm/2.8-acre
  • Project Area: 214,100 sqm
  • Floor count: 71 (+5 basement floors)
  • Building Height: 309.60 m
  • Lifts/elevators: 29

Construction start: 28 September 2006
Status: Completed
Completion Year: 2013

Awards:

  • 2014 – International Property Awards – Category: Commercial High-Rise Architecture, China
  • 2014 – Chicago Athenaeum International Architecture Award – Green Good Design Award
  • 2014 – Architizer A+ Awards – Typology Categories: Office Building High Rise (16+ Floors) – Finalist
  • 2014 – AEI Affiliated Engineers Awards – Category: Most Innovative Project: Mechanical Systems Design
  • 2014 – AEI Affiliated Engineers Awards – Category: Award of Excellence: Mechanical
  • 2013 – MIPIM Asia awards – Category: Best Innovative Green Building
  • 2013 – The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) Awards – Category: Best Tall Building Asia & Australia – Finalist
  • 2012 – ASHRAE Illinois Chapter Awards – Category: Excellence in Engineering
  • 2010 – Chicago Athenaeum International Architecture Award – Green Good Design Award
  • 2008 – Spark Awards – Category: Green, Carbon-Lowering & Environmental – Gold Award

The people:

Developer: Rowan Williams Davies & Irwin Inc.
Owner/Developer: Guangzhou Pearl River Industrial Development Holdings Co., Ltd., Guangzhou, China, PRC.
Owner: China National Tobacco Corporation, Dongcheng, China, PRC.
Architects: SOM – Skidmore Owings & Merrill – 224 S Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60604, United States
Interior designer: Skidmore Owings & Merrill
Associate Architects and Engineering Firm: Guangzhou Design Institute (GZDI), Guangzhou, China, PRC.

Project Team:

  • Project Manager: Shean-Horng Chien
  • former Senior Design Architect: Gordon Gill
  • Associate Director/Technical Architect: Yue Zhu
  • Managing Partner: Richard F. Tomlinson II
  • Structural Partner: William F. Baker
  • MEP Director: Luke Leung
  • Interior Design Director: Jaime Velez
  • Former Managing Director: Thomas Kerwin
  • Consulting Design Partner: Adrian Smith
  • Former MEP Director: Roger Frechette

General Contractor: Shanghai Construction Group
Structural, Civil and M/E/P Engineer, and Specifications: Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP

Consultants:

  • Acoustics: Shen Milsom Wilke, Inc.
  • Life/Fire Safety: Rolf Jensen & Associates, Inc.
  • Landscape: SWA Group
  • Vertical Transportation: Fortune Shepler Consulting
  • Wind Tunnel Testing: RWDI – Rowan Williams Davies & Irwin Inc.
  • Building Maintenance/Window Washing: HighRise Systems, Inc.
  • Lighting: Pivotal Lighting Design

Manufacturers:

  • Elevator: Otis Elevator Company
  • Sealants: Dow Corning Corporation
  • Metal Panels/Curtain wall: JiangHo
  • Glass/Skylights: Southern China Glass
  • Wind Power Generation: Wind Side
  • Chilled Ceiling System: TROX

Text Description: © Courtesy of SOM – Skidmore Owings & Merrill, archrecord.construction, CTBUH Awards
Images: © SOM – Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Tim Griffith, flickr-William, flickr-fernando herrera

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