A crystalline tower that is over 600 metres in height, Merdeka 118 will form the centerpiece of Kuala Lumpur’s historically significant Merdeka site, where Malaysian independence was declared in 1957. Flanked by smaller residential towers of varying form, along with a glass-domed covered retail mall, the building’s 118 storeys will house purpose-built offices and a six-star hotel, topped by a dual-level observation deck and restaurant (Figure 1). It is a marker than can be seen from anywhere in Kuala Lumpur.
The building’s faceted design is an expression of its structural pathways, resulting in a pattern of triangular shapes reminiscent of those found in traditional Malaysian arts and crafts. This exterior design language carries through to the podium interior, which comprises a lower lobby for hotel access at one end, and at the opposite end, an upper lobby for the offices and retail (Figure 2). Sustainability was a key design consideration, and the project is targeting for Platinum LEED certification as well as GBI and GreenRE certifications.
Construction on the project commenced in 2015. It has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is now expected to be completed in 2022. The main tower is under construction and has structurally topped out.
The Merdeka 118 project team included companies from Australia, South East Asia, Europe and North America, namely Fender Katsalidis (design architect), RSP, GDP, Turner, KTA, Arup, Sasaki, LERA, Robert Bird, Buchan, Emery Studio, Barker Mohandas, Fisher Marantz Stone, and Fluidity. The client is PNB Merdeka Ventures Sdn Bhd.
Designing a building as complex as Merdeka 118 required inputs from many different engineers in their individual fields. As architects, we orchestrated and coordinated meetings with an assembly of consultants contributing to the full project model using processes like BIM and software applications including:
In the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industries, BIM processes are now the design technology of choice. Creating 3D models with embedded data has become a fundamental part of the way projects are delivered and Merdeka 118 was no different.
The Open BIM collaboration format such as Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) allowed the different industry disciplines in the project to easily interchange, manage, coordinate, and share information within specific models or digital assets. These processes allowed for improved communication, increased consistency, and accuracy, effectively managing time which reduced costs, as well as mitigated risk.
Absolutely, as achieving the tower’s complex shape and intricate geometry wouldn’t be possible without such incredibly advanced technologies. A program like Archicad enabled us to design and envisage how technical junctions come together and determine how materiality interacts with structure.
Merdeka 118 is a complicated building — its facade is formed by many triangular pieces that come together to make a crystalline form. Major pieces of steel help to anchor and support the building’s concrete core, while the curtain wall moves and must meet the concrete accurately (Figure 5).
Working to over 600 metres in height, the use of cutting-edge technology helped us understand and predict unique design challenges and complications, as well as coordinate and collaborate, making quicker decisions thanks to the bevy of rich information that was generated.
Without the technologies available, the challenges would have been insurmountable due to the size and complexity of geometries. One of the main challenges in this project was the scale of construction.
The use of different computer programs by numerous project team members required us to register our 3D models on Aconex in different formats such as 3ds and 3dDWG, as opposed to standard IFC only. This illustrates the technological challenges of such a large project with so many consultants involved using different software.
Fortunately, the project managers were already quite BIM-oriented, so that was less of an uphill battle.
The implementation of BIM in the early stages of Merdeka 118 was 6-8 years ago, when the technology was still in its infancy, particularly in Australia. Fender Katsalidis had advanced knowledge of BIM because of its early use on the Eureka tower project. If Merdeka 118 was envisioned today with the current maturity of the contemporary BIM system, it might be even more efficient. Nonetheless, we managed to get a great result with the systems of today presenting fewer limitations.
In part due to the fact we have been able to coordinate and collaborate with different disciplines in 3D through a standard format, the result is a building with shapes and angles that are unique to architecture. When finished, Merdeka 118 will be the second tallest building in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
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