Windows (not ours) melts car

By on 5th September in Home Inspiration

I am sure you have heard about this in the news, but a new building in London nicknamed the ‘Walkie Talkie’ is heating up things in London…literally! It has been blamed for not only causing bicycle seats to melt, but also cars. Yes, cars!

The ‘Walkie Talkie’ is a new skyscraper being built in London, but what makes it stand out from the crowd is its curvature. The building gets bigger towards the top, creating a curve running down the building. This curve is focusing the Sun’s heat onto one particular spot on a London street, and anything that is under this for a prolonged period is coming out a bit worse for wear.

Walkie Talkie Building London

Image sourced from Duncan Harris on Flickr

A Jaguar was unfortunately parked in this very heat spot for about an hour. When the owner of the car returned, he saw people taking pictures of it. It wasn’t until he got closer that he realised why they were taking pictures. The plastic parts of the car had melted – the wing mirror, some of the side panels and even the badge!

As a general rule, plastic doesn’t tend to melt until about 100C, but even below that it can begin to soften and warp. One reading taken at the scene read 90C!

Other damage has been caused including singeing of door mats, bubbling paint on buildings and also cracked floor tiles.

How is this heat being created?

The Sun is beating down onto the building. The concave shape of the skyscraper reflects a lot more heat into a small area, creating a concentrated stream of heat. This works in a similar way as using a magnifying glass or as Buzz Lightyear does in Toy Story to light the firework.

Land Securities who are building the ‘Walkie Talkie’ have said it is a phenomenon caused by the Sun’s current position in the sky, but it is thought it may not be the case after the next few weeks. The group is looking at ways to combat this and have closed off the parking spaces that could be affected for up to 2 hours per day.

How can they prevent this?

As glass experts, we asked our product development team about ways to prevent glare and reflection. They recommend the skyscraper has a a special coating or film applied to reduce the reflection of the light and therefore not create an intense heat spot. This would work in a similar way to the Anglian Solaroof technology.

Failing that, realigning the windows so they are not in straight lines would help fragment the light, although this would incur quite a cost.

When can this be used to our advantage?

Scenarios like this are unfortunate, but there is not only a lot we can learn from this, but ways that we can utilise this to our advantage.

Solar Farm

Solar farms are a super green energy source, countries that have deserts or space that is saturated in sunlight are a great place for these to be built. To concentrate this energy source further, large towers are being built with perfectly clear curved mirrors concentrating the Sun’s rays onto the solar panels below, therefore generating lots more energy.

Has anything like this happened to you before?

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  • It surely won’t be long before the solar panel technology gets to a stage where it can be a translucent matt effect which could be used as not only a heat reflective glass but more a heat absorption glass. I wonder what the owners of the walkie talking will have to do to stop this from happening as it surely can’t be left like that.

  • Louie Watts

    Hi,

    I think this technology is in the process of being made by some scientists in America (http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/149163-mit-startup-makes-transparent-solar-cells-that-will-allow-your-smartphone-to-power-itself) although these will power Smart phones! I don’t think it will be long until transparent solar panels exists as a window, powering the property.

    I haven’t seen any more on this story but would love to know what they do to prevent this happening again. If you find out, feel free to share the link with us.

    Thanks

  • Yes I recently read that BASF is developing a film to harvest solar power with several other companies, it is mentioned on a TV advert they are running. I’m sure it would be more for commercial applications but anything that reduces the need for hideous solar panels is a good thing! 🙂