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What Did High-Rise Buildings Look Like in MidTwentieth Century?

According to Terrapin Bright Green, New York in the middle of the twentieth century, particularly Manhattan high-rises exhibited many instances of energy inefficiency and difficulty to adapt due to their single-pane glazing, poor construction, and insubstantial insulation ( be-sustainable?/5074042.article; be-sustainable?/5074035.article). A debate has been ongoing to replace these high- rise buildings with low or mid-rises, but better skyscrapers built in line with state-of-the-art outbreak technologies and environmental standards. Additionally, a report in 2013 argued that more efficiently designed contemporary replacements that were 44 % larger than their predecessors would consume 5 % less energy and offset their carbon cost of construction within 15-28 years (http://www.bdonline.; http://www.building. The point that was raised is “Can tall buildings be sustainable?” A debate over the 230 towers lined up to make the London skyline look more like Hong Kong’s has been conducted by Ike Ijeh ( 5074042.article; 5074035.article). This statement has been swaying between a set of opposing answers. The conventional opinion looks at tall buildings as they are—a largely unsustainable form of development point of view. This point was based on the experience of many of the failed tower blocks of the fifties and sixties and the corrosive urban and environmental conditions that came with them (http://www.bdonline.; http://www.bmld- According to Ike Ijeh, critics relate this to social and environmental evidence as justification varying from energy inefficiency, poor life expectancy, and overheating risk to physical anonymity, economic severance, and social polarisation. Ken Shuttleworth, one of the designers of London ’s “Gherkin” tower, stated the era of the glass skyscraper is, or at least should be, dead ( ever-be-sustainable?/5074042.article; ever-be-sustainable?/5074035.article), but nevertheless, there is a substantial counterargument that reflects a different viewpoint. This view sees tall buildings offering unparalleled innovation and maintains that it was as much poor maintenance as poor design that was responsible for the high-rise urban ghettos of the latter half of the twentieth century. Likewise, technological advances that enable skyscrapers to be just as green if not greener than their low-rise counterparts. For example, the Gensler’s Shanghai Tower—the second tallest tower in the world is considered the greenest on the planet (Fig. 9.11), and the world’s first Passivhaus office tower was certified in Vienna less than 2 years ago (Fig. 9.12), and also the Shared tower, London (Fig. 9.13). Ken Yeang has promulgated tall buildings as lush, vertical “greenscapes” that offer an idealised, utopian ideal of a sustainable future ( 5074042.article; 5074035.article). In accordance to David Fisk’s (Imperial College London) statement “You cannot have a sustainable city without social cohesion”. But with 80 % of the planned 230 towers allocated for residential use and, according to the NLA’s study, the vast majority of this luxury, what impact will this have on London’s social cohesion and thereby its wider sustainability aspirations?” He also argued, if not dwell in tall buildings, then how else can such a volume of population density expect to be met in London and elsewhere? ( can-tall-buildings-ever-be-sustainable?/5074042.article; can-tall-buildings-ever-be-sustainable?/5074035.article); such a statement has highlighted the vital role of tall buildings in engulfing the skyrocketing population increase. It is also important nowadays to use efficient glazing with the lowest SHGC and shading coefficient, SC—meaning solar radiation is reflected, hence lower V-value—to ensure the least heat gain/ loss and minimise the use of power and energy that will result in lesser greenhouse gas emissions, mainly CO2 thus contributing to make tall buildings sustainable.

Fig. 9.12 30 St. Mary Axe (Gherkin’s), London, UK. Image source: http:// wp-content/ uploads/2015/06/ TheGherkin_safra-group. jpg


Fig. 9.13 Gensler’s

Shanghai Tower, Shanghai,

China. Image source:







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