Shanghai Tower: A real life miracle made possible by BIM

Some might say they don’t believe in miracles, saying that they are the stuff of dreams or fiction. But what they don’t realize is that we can always achieve the impossible if we work hard enough no matter how impossible that dream is. Just look at Shanghai Tower, for example, the second-highest building in the world made possible by incorporating the right minds and technology.

Image Source: Connie Zhou

Towering over the Shanghai skyline lies the second tallest building in the world: The Shanghai Tower. Spiraling 632 meters tall with 121 stories, it is, by all means, an engineering masterpiece made only possible by the advancements in BIM technology. Its unique shape and design comprise nine cylindrical buildings stacked on top of each other, creating a literal city in the sky with its own garden, residential spaces, retail spaces, and a plethora of cafes and restaurants. A feature that would be impossible to execute by traditional pen-and-paper design methods.


Since Shanghai Tower was such a massive and complicated project, it was decided from the start that it could not be represented accurately with typical software or design methods. Building the tower itself proved an impossible task let alone achieving its required LEED Gold standards. The stakeholders knew that this was going to be the most ambitious project they have ever worked on. After consulting over 30 construction companies and employing dozens of subcontractors, it is decided that constructing this tower is only possible if they apply and make the most out of BIM technologies from the start. 


BIM has allowed seamless communication between almost 50 companies and firms from all around the world. They were able to share their design models, enabling a level of collaboration never before seen in previous projects: accurate, timely insights and error corrections are made harmoniously. There are zero clashes during construction and only 7 clashes in the whole design process, an amazing feat considering the insane complexity of this project. Because of its unique twisting shape and double skin facade, it was extremely difficult to convey using 2D methods. BIM has enabled them to visualize the building in 3D, analyzing the design to improve decision making. They relied heavily on the Revit model for reflection analysis to determine the effect of glare from the tower onto the surrounding neighborhood. This helped the design team optimize the outer curtain wall – even down to the angle and position of each individual piece of glass to reduce light pollution. 

Image source: Shanghai Tower Construction and Development Co., Ltd

The early adoption of BIM into Shanghai Tower’s design and construction process has not only made its construction possible but has also made it so much easier while also reducing waste significantly. It saved more than 50 million dollars in structure cost alone, and saved an additional 32% of building materials, all thanks to BIM.


It can be said that Shanghai Tower is indeed an exemplary of the amazing feats we can achieve upon implementing BIM and other latest technologies in design, construction, and facility management.


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