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Oil rig knowhow saves space on Japanese hypertower

OIL PLATFORM technology will help Japan build the world's tallest exhibition building if the organisers of the 2005 World Exposition accept an alternative proposal designed to minimise environmental impact.

Towering to more than 600m, the exhibition structure would feature 50 levels of pavilions linked by a spiralling monorail around the tower's perimeter.

Main structural support would come from massive offshore-style steel tubes measuring up to 8.75m in diameter and with wall thicknesses reaching 125mm.

Japanese architect TR Hamza & Yeang put forward the alternative hypertower design because of fears that conventional pavilions would fatally damage the mature ecosystem of the 540ha site near Seto City, Nagoya.

The hypertower would have a footprint of only 3ha compared to 150ha for the more traditional campus site design.

For specialist structural advice the architect turned to Colchester- based Robin Webb Consulting, whose senior partner Robin Webb was formerly BP's ocean engineering manager.

'In offshore engineering terms there is nothing exceptional in a 600m high structure,' Webb said. 'Some structures in the Gulf of Mexico are pushing 1,000m.

'And the loads carried by the Nagoya hypertower would be only a third or a quarter of those supported by similar offshore structures, where the weight is concentrated at the top rather than being distributed along its length.'

If the proposals are accepted, the tower will serve as a working prototype for the 1,000m hypertower project for Tokyo currently being promoted by the Japanese Ministry of Construction, Webb added.

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