What bad design can cost you
When left unchecked, design debt can sometimes cause a lot more trouble than a bad first impression or hurt user satisfaction. And the problem is not nearly limited to software development. Here’s one amusing real-life example for you.
Constructed in spring 2014, London’s commercial skyscraper (nicknamed The Walkie Talkie for its distinctive design) is a great example of complete disregard for design verification and its consequences. And while the building’s appearance is rather debatable, it wasn’t the visual aesthetics that made it so notorious back in the day.
The building was designed to expand towards the higher floors, turning it into a huge curved mirror. During its construction in the summer of 2013, the building started reflecting concentrated sunlight of up to 243 °F (117 °C) onto the streets below for about two hours each day. This led to numerous reports of parked vehicles being horribly distorted with paintwork completely melted off. Shortly after, several parking bays in the area were temporarily closed as a precautionary measure.
Even though the scorching problem was later fixed with a series of vertical fins installed on the higher floors of the tower, in July 2015, another issue related to the very same concave design revealed itself. When strong gusts of wind collided with the curved facade of the Walkie Talkie head on, it created a severe downdraught effect. The wind, redirected downwards at incredible speed and pressure, started blowing people over and ripping signs off nearby buildings.
Following all the distress caused by the building’s flawed design, the City of London Corporation has even started demanding independent assessment and verification of construction design reports at the planning stage. Royal Town Planning Institute described the building as “a daily reminder never to let such a planning disaster ever happen again.”