Gallery: Shard Tower

New method puts towers up faster

Shard Tower Image 1

Renzo Piano's 72-story glass tower in London, expected to be the tallest building in Western Europe when it opens in 2012, employs a bold new method that could speed construction of tomorrow's skyscrapers: Build the tower and dig the basement at the same time.

Shard Tower Image 2

An aerial view of the Shard Tower's proposed location, near London's iconic Tower Bridge.

Shard Tower Image 3

Looking past the Shard Tower. A custom deep-diving rig put the tower's structural columns into the ground before excavation took place, so one construction crew can dig the basement--which otherwise puts everything else on hold--while another installs elevators, staircases and mechanical fixtures on top of the columns.

Shard Tower Image 4

Engineer Bob Gordon of the Mace Group estimates that the technique will save seven months of construction time.