The Shard, London

The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe. The 306 m high iconic tower has redefined the London skyline and is already an international symbol for London. 

The Shard was developed by Sellar Property Group in association with London Bridge Quarter Ltd and designed by the Italian architect, Renzo Piano. It is a mixed use ‘vertical city’, with 25 floors of office space, three floors of restaurants, a 17-storey hotel, 13 floors of apartments and a triple height public viewing gallery as well as a near open-air viewing floor on level 72.  It is crowned with a steel-framed pinnacle clad with shards of glass designed to blend into the sky. It stands next to London Bridge Station, one of London’s busiest transport hubs, at the heart of London Bridge Quarter, London’s newest commercial quarter which is a key part of the regeneration of London’s South Bank.

Watch a video story that demonstrates what can be achieved with the right mix of outlandish ambition, determination, ‘aggressive charm’ and teamwork.

As structural engineer, WSP was responsible for the design of The Shard and our team was on site throughout its construction. Our priority was to design a building that would be economical and financially viable from a structural point of view, while adhering to the architectural concept of the project, and to deliver it rapidly and safely.

The Shard is designed for multi-use and is the first building of its kind in Europe. The large floorplates at the lower levels lend themselves to commercial use, while above mid-height the building’s tapering profile provides ideal floorplates for the hotel, private apartments and viewing gallery.

95 95
Glass panels
11,000 11,000
height (m)
306 306
Lifts Speed
6 m/s 6 m/s
Lifts in the building
44 44
weight of the prefabricated steel spire
500-tonne 500-tonne

Working closely with the architect, developer and the contractors (Mace) we developed innovative new construction techniques which enhance the distinctive architecture and are appropriate to the different uses of the building.

Key achievements included:

  • Top-down construction. This technique – a world first – allowed the first 23 storeys of the 72-storey concrete core and much of the surrounding tower to be built before the basement had been fully excavated. This saved four months on the complex build programme.

  • Innovative use of materials. The tower is effectively three separate structures – a steel-frame building for the first 40 floors, a post-tension concrete frame up to level 72, then a steel spire to complete the shape to the equivalent of level 95. The use of concrete in the centre of the building had a number of benefits.

  • It provided damping at the upper levels to minimise lateral acceleration and thus control the sway of the building in the wind. This solution also eliminated the need for a tuned mass damper, thus freeing up an additional residential floor.

  • It meant that overall floor depths could be shallower, allowing for a further two floors within the total building height.

  • Prefabrication and pre-assembly of the 500-tonne, 66-metre steel spire to minimize the risks of working at such an unprecedented height.

  • The Shard is 306 metres,  almost a third of a kilometre. 

  • It is 95 storeys tall, with level 72 the highest habitable floor. 

  • The building is served by 44 lifts, some of which are double-decker. 

  • Its exterior is covered by 11,000 glass panels - equivalent in area to eight football pitches.

  • The length of wiring in the building, 320km would stretch from London to Paris. 

  • At the busiest point during its construction, 1,450 workers from 60 countries were helping to build The Shard. 

  • Lifts in The Shard travel at speeds of up to 6 metres a second.