London’s Iconic Shard Tower Built Using GEOBIM Solutions

Globally recognized engineering and construction firms Mace Group, WSP, and Arup used advanced GEOBIM solutions to plan, design and construct the Shard Tower in London. 3D Laser Scanners, GPS and GPR solutions, and BIM and 4D-project management software were used to improve the overall construction productivity and manage and maintain the building in a sustainable manner.

The Shard, a 310 meters high pyramid-shaped building that accommodates both residences and offices is one of the most iconic structures in Western Europe.  The 95-story skyscraper, designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and located in Southwark, London, forms part of the Shard Quarter development. The tower is a multi-use, vertical city, with commercial offices, international restaurants, a five-star Shangri-La hotel, and exclusive residences. It also has viewing platforms on three floors for the public. The building is named the Shard as it is modeled on a shard of glass and the 11,000 panels on its exterior cover a total area of 56,000 meters. Given the Shard’s unique blend of irregular geometry and multi-use occupancies, this structure is an example of the British government’s push towards innovative infrastructure development.

The project owner of the Shard Tower, Irvine Sellar, Sellar Property Group, commissioned the design of the USD 729 million project in the year 2000 to Italian architect Renzo Piano, and for structural designing to WSP, a leading global engineering and consultancy firm known for its structural design work. The Mace Group was awarded the contract for construction in 2007. The construction of the Shard commenced in 2009, and the building was formally inaugurated on July 5, 2012.


  • The Shard Tower Address: 32 London Bridge Street, 
    London, SE1 9SG
  • Construction period: 2009 – 2012
  • Height: 310 meters
  • Floor count: 95
  • Architect: Renzo Piano
  • Developer: Sellar Property Group
  • Main contractor: Mace Group

Exemplary use of GEOBIM Technology Solutions

The Shard Tower is one of the world’s best examples of the use of GEOBIM solutions, carried out across the entire construction lifecycle of a project ─ planning and design, construction, and operations and maintenance.  

Planning and Design Stage: During the planning and design stage of the Shard Tower, the project owner, Sellar Property Group, conducted 3D topographical surveys and 3D scanning of the surrounding environment using Total Station, GPS, Laser Scanning and UAV technologies to create Digital Terrain Models (DTMs) and Digital Elevation Models (DEMs). The DTMs and DEMs were used by the project managers to assess alternative right of way during the planning stage and the planning of infrastructure projects. The textured DTMs and DEMs presented a true-to-life virtual depiction and design of actual objects, cities and landscape. 

Furthermore, using GPS-based solutions and Ground Penetrating Radar solutions, the Sellar Property Group accurately mapped the positioning of the underground tunnels and ventilation shafts. By combining the underground data with CAD and BIM models, the stakeholders were able to create a 3D model of the below-ground infrastructure. The 3D model of the underground infrastructure helped Sellar Property Group mitigate the risk from utility congestion and utility strikes in the construction process. The integration of the above and below ground infrastructure in this 3D model helped the project stakeholders streamline workflows and save time and effort in the future construction and operation and maintenance stages. 

Structural Analysis: WSP began the structural analysis and design of the Shard Tower in 2004. WSP’s goal was to design and build a project that was going to adhere to the architectural concept but would be financially and economically viable from a structural point of view as well. To maintain structural integrity, WSP used Bentley’s RAM structural analysis and design software products to streamline workflows, avoid duplication in manual tasks, and optimize data and design quality. Additionally, the entire concrete raft and its stability were developed efficiently by automating the time-consuming design and construction tasks. The use of RAM software helped the project stakeholders save 50 percent cost in steelwork frame tonnage. 

Construction Stage: In the construction stage of the Shard Tower, the project stakeholders continued to effectively and efficiently monitor the underground infrastructure, especially the Northern and Jubilee tube lines and the surrounding infrastructure. Using highly accurate 3D laser scanning tools, the project stakeholders were able to duly assess the construction target areas and accordingly define the Manufacturing, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) lines and design against as-builts. Further, real-time data was captured using 3D laser scanners and sent to the BIM software in the Cloud. All stakeholders in the Cloud could access the designed model and compare it with real-time data, effectively checking for active ‘design and as-built’ clashes. Once the clashes were identified, the stakeholders were able to resolve the clashes in time. 

In the construction process, the Mace Group used Synchro’s 4D project management and scheduling software. Using the BIM software, the team could develop 4D models that showed how all elements of the project would flow. Using the Synchro Software, the Mace Group was able to evaluate and manage construction and logistical issues more efficiently. The project stakeholders were able to visualize the project plan and improve collaboration and communication during the MEP scheduling process.

Operations and Maintenance Stage: The data collected via 3D laser scanners and in the Common Data Environment (CDE) of the BIM software was used by the project stakeholders in the operations and maintenance of the Shard Tower, both for asset management and operations and maintenance. The data is continuously being used to enhance the parametric model to maintain the life cycle of the building. 

GEOBIM Solutions Used to Plan, Design and Construct The Shard Tower of London Improve Construction Productivity

GEOBIM Solutions Improve Construction Coordination and Productivity

The use of GEOBIM solutions inclusive of Laser Scanner, GPR tools, and BIM and RAM software in the construction of the Shard Tower has helped the structural designers – Arup, the contractor – Mace and the electrical consultancy firm – Arup to streamline workflows save time and effort and improve collaboration and communication. Using BIM and CAD software, all the project stakeholders were able to communicate in real-time, detect clashes, resolve errors in design and improve decision-making. Additionally, using the project management software, Synchro, the stakeholders were able to evaluate and manage the construction and logistical issues more efficiently. Therefore, the use of GEOBIM solutions improved the overall construction productivity and at present helps to sustainably manage and maintain the building.

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