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How London’s Tallest Building Keeps People Safe From The Worst

Upon completion this month, the London Bridge Shard Building, designed by Renzo Piano, will be the tallest in the European Union, at 1,016 feet. As one of the first planned skyscrapers to be approved for construction after the 9/11 attacks, it offers ultra-secure safety features.

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1. Painted-On Protection

At the World Trade Center, insulation fell away, making the structures susceptible to flames. The Shard features intumescent paint that swells under heat to create a protective char layer. This way, steel beams won’t degrade to their melting point.

2. Concrete Core

The Shard is layered with multi-use components: offices, restaurants, a hotel, residential units, and an observation deck. The lower half is made of steel, but for the rest, concrete lends stiffness to the building, which can withstand 2 feet of lateral movement.

3. Safe Lifts

In the event of a fire, dual power supplies make elevators safe to use, moving people to the ground faster and eliminating the crush down the building’s stairs.

4. Stairway to Safety

Staircases were designed to be extra wide for quicker evacuation and allow firefighters to ascend against the current more easily. The staircases are placed on opposite sides of the building–if one is compromised, there’s another across the floor.

A version of this article appears in the May 2012 issue of Fast Company.

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