Bloomberg News

Europe’s Highest Apartments Pierce Clouds in London’s Shard

June 21, 2011

(Updates with Canary Wharf tower in eighth paragraph.)

June 21 (Bloomberg) -- No one moves to London for the weather, which is just as well if you buy an apartment at the top of London’s Shard skyscraper, the highest in Western Europe. Residents may sit in or above the clouds on about one in four days a year, obscuring the spectacular views.

The highest home will be at 735 feet, on the 65th floor of the 1,016-foot (310-meter) tower near London Bridge. The bottom of the city’s cloud layer, known as the cloud ceiling, is at or below 700 feet for at least an hour for an average of 83 days a year, according to AccuWeather Inc. The Pennsylvania-based forecaster compiled the data in the eight years through 2010.

“You’ll definitely have the experience at some point of looking out and only seeing the cloud bank below you, almost like you would in an aircraft,” said Stephan Reinke, a London- based architect who was one of the designers of the 1-kilometer (0.6-mile) high Nakheel Tower in Dubai.

The Shard, funded by Sellar Property Group Ltd. and the Qatar Central Bank, became the U.K.’s tallest building when its 69th floor was constructed in December, overtaking the 771-foot tower at One Canada Square in the Canary Wharf district. The pyramid-shaped Shard, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, will have apartments, hotels, offices and restaurants opposite the City of London by the River Thames.

‘Exceptional Views’

Views from the apartments will be “exceptionally good” for 97 percent of the year, according to WSP Group Plc, which provides engineering services for the Shard. On a clear day, residents will be able to see for about 44 miles through their floor-to-ceiling windows, Sellar Property said.

“Trying to estimate how many days the weather will play a part in what you see misses the point,” Irvine Sellar, the company’s chairman, said by e-mail. “The weather is part of the joys to be had from the views.”

The Shard will have more than twice as much glass as the London skyscraper known as the Gherkin and will be completed in time for the 2012 Olympic Games, which will be held in the city. The 72-story tower will have about 12 apartments, said Baron Phillips, a spokesman for Sellar. He declined to give any prices because the properties aren’t being offered for sale yet.

London’s highest apartments are currently in the Strata, a lipstick-shaped building in the Elephant and Castle district, and Pan Peninsula East Tower in Canary Wharf. Both are almost 490 feet tall.

Selling prices for homes in the second tower start at 596,000 pounds and 95 percent of them have been bought, according to the skyscraper’s website.

Low-Hanging Clouds

“If you have a ceiling at 700 feet, anything above that would be in the clouds,” Kristina Pydynowski, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather, said by phone. “If you have low- hanging clouds, they would typically be around for several hours, though that doesn’t necessarily mean the whole day would be covered.”

The weather service doesn’t gather data on average cloud thickness.

“The experience of being in a static object above the clouds is quite wonderful, though a lot of people would be quite nervous about something like that,” Reinke said by telephone.

The Chicagoan, who has lived in London for 21 years, was one of the principal designers of the Nakheel Tower before the development was put on hold following Dubai’s property crash.

Moscow Towers

Europe’s tallest building is the 300.3-meter City of Capitals in Moscow, according to NBBJ, the firm of architects that designed the development. That will be beaten by the Russian capital’s Mercury City Tower, which will be 380 meters tall when it’s completed this year, according to

The Shard’s 62,000 square feet of apartments, on floors 53 to 65, will sit above three stories of restaurants, 27 floors of offices and 19 floors of hotel rooms leased by Shangri-La Asia Ltd., Asia’s biggest luxury hotelier by market value.

AccuWeather, a closely held weather forecaster for more than 2 million locations worldwide, used data from Heathrow Airport to compile its data. The company said that the cloud level is likely to be the same across London.

--Editors: Ross Larsen, Andrew Blackman.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Spillane in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Blackman at

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