King Power MahaNakhon Tower, Thailand

Defying wind with Thailand's striking pixelated building

With a striking, pixelated design, the King Power MahaNakhon Tower is an iconic symbol, instantly recognisable on the Bangkok skyline.

At 314m tall, the skyscraper was the tallest in the Thai capital at the time of its completion in late 2016. Designed by Ole Scheeren, the Tower is a luxury, mixed-use skyscraper located in the Silom/Sathon central business area of Bangkok, Thailand. It includes a five-star hotel, residences, an observation deck, and retail establishments.

To ensure its success, the Tower’s developer, PACE Development Corporation, appointed global engineering and infrastructure advisory company Aurecon to review the building’s design and construction.

As a trusted and leading consultant in designing supertall buildings, Aurecon conducted a comprehensive value engineering review of the construction methodology, structural design, and building services design so as to help PACE achieve greater confidence in the design as well as in building performance, statutory requirements on safety, and speed of construction.

Construction system

For a supertall building, construction methodology and sequencing are essential for its financial viability. The right construction method is a balance of structural integrity, cost-efficiency, buildability, and construction time. Aurecon’s team worked closely with the main contractor, Bouygues-Thai, to review the proposed methodology and used its deep-rooted understanding of supertall buildings to advise on the optimal approach.

Special attention was paid to the asymmetrical geometry of the Tower to ensure the right construction sequencing and deflection compensation. This was necessary to make sure the building delivered the correct verticality at completion. The team from Aurecon also analysed the potential impact of long-term creep and shrinkage in the concrete to ensure this would not adversely affect the building, especially given its pixelated and angular design.

Wind and seismic loading

Supertall structures are complex, so their design always requires higher levels of engineering consultation. One of the first areas Aurecon examined was the interaction with the soil-structure and the weight of the building, a particularly important task given Bangkok’s soft soil conditions. Bringing its experience and knowledge from other supertall buildings, Aurecon worked with the PACE and Bouygues-Thai teams to investigate the effects of the soft soil.

The team also analysed the performance of the Tower under wind and seismic activity. The aim of this work was to enhance building performance by fully understanding lateral vibration and ensure tenant comfort consistently met international standards and guidelines.

Aurecon’s team in Thailand spent extensive time understanding the predicted wind loadings. Close attention was paid to the pixelated exterior with its sharp corners. While this design gives the building its spectacular appearance, it also attracts higher wind forces than a smoother, curved structure would.

Ensuring the design can absorb those stronger forces required careful engineering. An over-engineered structure has unnecessarily high building material and construction costs; while an under-engineered one will adversely affect tenant comfort and structural integrity.

Adding to the complexity of the wind analysis, its asymmetrical design meant lateral sway could be influenced by gravity. To ensure this remained within acceptable limits, Aurecon ran detailed checks on all vertical structure members.

High-performance MEP system

In addition to reviewing the building services design, Aurecon was also appointed to carry out additional MEP design for the Tower.

Delivering an MEP design for one of Thailand’s tallest buildings came with its own challenges. Because of its height and unusual exterior, the Tower required a special heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system that would not compromise water pressure on higher floors.

Furthermore, as the development is mixed-use, design work for the HVAC system had to comply with international standards for hotel, retail and residential construction. To do this, Aurecon’s team in Thailand divided the Tower into multiple zones, so as to meet deadlines and budgets.

The client also specified a chilled water HVAC system for the King Power MahaNakhon Tower – a first in the country’s residential industry. Compared with the alternative Variable Refrigerant Flow Air Conditioning System, the chilled water system uses less energy and has a lower investment cost. A further benefit is that this system also complements the pixelated façade of the skyscraper.

Residents began moving into the building midway through construction, so the Aurecon team came up with a solution to minimise disruptions during performance testing of the HVAC system. Working closely with the on-site team, they mapped out conducive areas for testing and ensured completed exclusion of residential rooms during this process.

In total, Aurecon’s work on the King Power MahaNakhon Tower lasted several months. During this time, the company worked closely with both the contractor and developer on construction and design enhancements from the ground up to ensure the building delivered on its promise to be an architectural landmark.

In 2019, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) recognised King Power MahaNakhon as one of '50 Most Influential Tall Buildings of the Last 50 years'.

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