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Renélagos am-cont-sep13-bro-s


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René Lagos recognised and respected for its expertise
in realising the aspirations of architects to build tall
in challenging environments

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Renélagos am-cont-sep13-bro-s

  1. 1. René Lagos to stay Our work is here
  2. 2. René Lagos Our work is here to stay René Lagos recognised and respected for its expertise in realising the aspirations of architects to build tall in challenging environments written by: John O’Hanlon research by: Abi Abagun
  3. 3. René Lagos The Santiago Justice Center under construction W hen René Lagos looks out from his 25th floor office in Santiago de Chile he gets a good view over the capital that now has so many high-rise buildings that part of it is known as Sanhattan. He is looking out over the history of the firm of structural engineers he founded in 1977 and it never fails to excite him. He likes to identify to his two small grandsons the many buildings in the panorama that he calls his ‘children’, so much work was put into their conception. Santiago has 75 entries on skyscraperpage. com which is good going for a city with a downtown population of fewer than 300,000 (though greater Santiago is home to 6.5 million). More to the point Chile lies along the destructive plate boundary between the Nazca Plate and the South American Plate. It has experienced 13 earthquakes in the last year: it stands to reason that in one of the world’s most active seismic countries you can’t be in construction and not know a lot about how to build a structure that will not fall down when shaken. Lagos has always had a passion for tall buildings. “Structural engineering became my passion from the earliest days as a student. After working for a few years in firms that specialised in structural design of high-rise building I started my own firm, focusing on high-rise buildings.” The firm of René Lagos started by designing mainly buildings of up to 15 storeys but in 1993 it had a breakthrough when it was commissioned as the structural engineer for the 22 storey headquarters of Camara Chilena
  4. 4. René Lagos Seismic hazard assessment for resilient and performance design of buildings in South America and Dubai Santiago Justice Center - Santiago, Chile Forty years of leadership in seismic design and risk assessment for buildings, bridges, industrial facilities, mining projects, thermoelectric and hydroelectric power plants and large dams. Artificial accelerogram used in the seismic design of the tallest buildings in South America of 300 m and 200 m height in Santiago, Chile and Lima, Perú. S & S CONSULTING ENGINEERS LTD. Forecast of design spectra for Costanera Center and Titanium buildings, shown in the figure, coincided with measured spectra for Chile 2010 Mw = 8.8 earthquake. Telephone: 56-2-22318406 | Email: | de la Construcción, the organisation that about how high buildings ought to go in a represents the largest construction companies seismically unstable country. Santiago after in the country. That project put the firm all was flattened in 1647’s 8.5 magnitude on the map and proved its competence by event, while Chile experienced the severest successfully withstanding at least two major earthquake ever recorded in 1960 at earthquakes as well as countless minor ones. 9.5 magnitude and the sixth largest at Three years later in 1996 René Lagos 8.8 on February 27 2010. The Telefónica building came through that landed, through a competition, what was then the tallest building in Santiago, the 132 without any damage but it was designed to do that. Lagos is proud of metre high Telefónica tower. this iconic structure for many It is shaped to look like a big cellphone (and from that reasons. “The client told us point of view is now clearly that the one thing they could dated) but the engineering be certain of was that they challenges were considerable would be changing their and in overcoming them it layout frequently and did not The year René Lagos attracted a lot of professional want to call in the structural founded his firm interest – as well as a debate engineer every time to decide 1997
  5. 5. René Lagos 300 Metres Height of the Gran Torre Santiago Al Bandar, Al Raha Beach - Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates how to do that. We took on the challenge of giving them internal open space of 30 by 20 metres, with no intermediate columns – even today that would be a tall order,” he says proudly. The company today has in its portfolio many buildings over 200 metres high, so size is no longer the driver it once was. Nevertheless the Gran Torre Santiago, part of the spectacular $1 billion Costanera Center containing offices, hotels, shopping and entertainment, is today the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. At 300 metres it is about the same height as the Shard or the Empire State (minus the latter’s pointy bits) and twice the height of the Telefónica tower. Seismic performance is not just about being able to make buildings that don’t fall down, he explains. “The question is, do we create buildings that are flexible, with long displacements, or do we make them stiff, with very little displacement? You could take the view that a building that is flexible and has what we call ductility will dissipate energy making the basic structure safer, at the cost of non-structural damage “The client told us that the one thing they could be certain of was that they would be changing their layout frequently” to partitions and the like: if they are stiff there is more acceleration, which means that your fridge is more likely to fall over – but stiff buildings experience less non-structural damage and remain usable, without major repairs being needed.” Where in other seismic countries the ductility argument has won, there has been a social cost. The buildings remain standing, but their inhabitants are made homeless while they are repaired. “There has been a lot of discussion about this, but the only thing we can say from our experience here in Chile is that the type of design that we have used has proved very successful from a social point of view, with very little failure of buildings or need to evacuate them. We have to design for safety of course, but also for performance and usability.” This approach typifies his attitude to innovation – he loves it. Though he laughs when he recalls starting out with just a couple of scientific calculators, René Lagos has absorbed new technology as it has been developed. That is why he sets such store by the R&D group he has set up to do research on production tools such as software applied to engineering analysis and design and also in collaborative technologies such as building Telefonica Building - Santiago, Chile
  6. 6. René Lagos “There is another way to think about sustainability, and that is structural efficiency” Corp Group Building - Santiago, Chile information modelling (BIM). “We also research technical solutions for our clients,” he says, “which means things like the use of seismic protection techniques like isolation or energy dissipation in high rise buildings.” He was an early adopter of the BIM concept, and has been using model based software from Revit and Tekla for more than ten years. “We started to use it internally to collaborate with different disciplines – not too many other people were using it. Now that is changing. We have even been training clients and other firms.” BIM, he explains, enables you create much more than a 3D model and to factor in cost and time, making it effectively a 5D model of the project. Using BIM tools brings a project to life, René Lagos says: as well as making it better BIM makes his work a lot more fun to do! Growth in the company has been entirely organic, and very pragmatic. If there’s a market for the firm’s expertise René Lagos will follow it: if the market dries up the firm withdraws. The first venture outside of Chile was Argentina, however it was felt that the company would be more effective abroad if it engaged with more stable economies, so in 2006 an office was set up in Miami in René Lagos head office collaboration with a local partner – it was a very successful venture as construction was booming in the US at the time, and though things slowed down after 2008 and the average size of projects became smaller, that market is again looking up. “At that time we were looking for technologies that we could apply in the Costanera project,” he continues. “So we travelled round the world to the places where the tallest buildings were being built including Dubai. By the time we had made three trips out there we were already engaged in some projects in Abu Dhabi, teaming up
  7. 7. René Lagos with local operators on a project by project basis including one of more than a million square metres.” Always choosing the right business model for the market, René Lagos then started looking again at the South American market, and in particular the active economies of Perú and Colombia. After some market research, in December 2012 a branch office was set up in Lima, employing Peruvian structural engineers and training them in the company’s culture. “Wherever we are in the world,” says Lagos, “we work together through cloud computing technology: it is just as if we were all in the same office. In Lima we have been active over those months, engaged on high-rise projects, many of them very challenging.” The experience has been a happy one. Growth has been “Wherever we are in the world, we work together through cloud computing technology” Residential property René Lagos (left) on site in the United Arab Emirates steady and better than expected, and he sees a great future for the Peruvian market. Though neither Miami nor the Middle East are particularly prone to earthquakes, seismic performance remains a key core skill for the company. When a group of Chilean architects invited René Lagos to become involved in some projects in China, he jumped at the opportunity. René Lagos has been in a consortium with Seismic A&E of Beijing for the last two years and has provided consultancy services for many project, so far mainly in the mid-rise category, in China. “Once again it has been again very interesting to have the opportunity to work with different cultures and methods,” he says. “It fits with the spirit of innovation and fun that we all share in this firm.” Earthquakes do happen in China, and there has been much loss of life. Where better for them to look for sustainable solutions than Chile, with its unique experience? That word, sustainable, sets Mr Lagos off on a new tack. “If you spoke about sustainability in structural engineering five years ago there was not that much to say: today it is becoming a very sophisticated issue with many variables involved.” Think of the structure of the building – its skeleton , he says – everything is hung on to that after it is built. The traditional way of thinking says it has to be built using recyclable materials like steel. “But there is another way to think about sustainability, and that is structural efficiency. When you design an efficient structure you need less material. And why always think of recyclability as only applying
  8. 8. René Lagos Workers on top of the Gran Torre Santiago (Costanera Tower) when the building is demolished when you hope it will never be demolished! Better surely to builds structures that can be upgraded every so many years while still occupying the same skeleton.” That, he says is an equally valid conceptual approach to structural sustainability. Either approach will need to take into consideration things like sourcing raw materials locally, but sustainable design does not end when the building is handed over. It is a whole life issue. Seismic performance is an obvious case – the ability of the building to stay standing and usable, without needing costly repairs – but sustainability is a never ending concern for René Lagos’ researchers. “If you always do the same thing you did before, you are dying! There is always a new perspective. That is what keeps you alive – fun and passion. We do it that way here, and incentivise younger engineers to feel it too. That is probably why people stay here and look on the firm as a place where it is worth spending a large chunk of their career.” After a good few years it is clear that René Lagos has lost none of his joie de vivre. “Never get so used to the things you do that you lose your ability to be amazed. You have to be able to be astonished – that gives you energy and tells you where you are – and how far you have come. I am still amazed when I look out across Santiago! It makes me emotional and proud.” For more information about René Lagos visit:
  9. 9. René Lagos Produced by: