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Sustainable Design
 
Sustainable development and green highrises
Sustainable development has become the "buzz" word in recent times. Although the word has been used before, nowadays it's pretty much common to see it everywhere. Sustainable development and green architecture have been coupled together, although green architecture is one aspect in sustainable devolepment.

My question is: Does a highrise always have to be sustainable? And to what degree can this sustainability run to, and also is it justifiable is there are other major factors at risk as in the case of Foster's Commerzbank, Frankfurt. It would be really nice if someone could respond.

Thanks :)
T C
Responses
 
Sustainable development and green highrises
"Highrise" is the exact opposite of sustainable. The term "sustainable highrise" is a contradiction.
Frank John Snelling
Sustainable development and green highrises
Dear Tilanka,

I think you are raising a very valid point when you say that green architecture is just a part of sustainable development.

In my opinion, a much larger part of sustainability is land use; i.e. where you put your buildings. Even if you have the best green building, the moment you put it in a wetlands, it's no longer sustainable. I think you'd be really interested in reading Prof. Richard Forman's work, if you are interested in some of the larger sustainability issues involving land use, preservation of natural resources and sustenance of life on this planet other than ours.

Now, there is no doubt that one of the major challenges facing sustainability today is sprawl, highways and cars. It's the worst environmental problem in the U.S., and the dream of double story house in its own garden is spreading like wildfire among the upwardly mobile in urban areas around the world. Now, if all urban people lived in high rise apartments, the footprint of the city would be so much smaller, leaving so much more land outside the city for sustainable agriculture and wildlife protection. This is undeniable.

However, one must also not claim that nature is something that begins at the doors of a city, because nature is part of the city as well. Highrises create many environmental and social problems (sustainability for humans) that need to be addressed. One of the most well-known is that high rises kill birds (b/c the birds are compelled to fly into their lit surfaces at night). To be honest, although I've read many reports on how high rises can be made sustainable, I have not read anything analytical and substantial that qualified why they are bad... I'll leave it at that and see where the discussion takes us.
Ozgur Basak Alkan
Sustainable development and green highrises
Sustainable High-Rises, or the closest thing to it, has been done for several years by Kenneth Yeang of Malaysia. He has a joint architecture and ecology doctoral from Oxford and is the author of many books. He understands the innate and integral energy/pollution/depletion costs of both building materials and building systems. I spoke with him after one of his lectures at U.C. Berkeley. Not only does his office do its best in providing the most sustainable project possible for the high rise desires of his clients but he also turns out really interesting projects formally and tectonically.

The previous comment about placing the high rise in the wetland is also a matter of degree. Were the project of a much larger footprint or low rise, the wetland might be wiped out entirely. Professor (emeritus) Paul Lusk of the University of New Mexico Architecture Dept. espouses a way to create new wetlands that act as biologic sewage filtration devices. These ameliorate and help to mitigate the impact of sewage and other wastes of thousands of high rise workers. He also has some formulas for determining extent of project associated tree planting which makes up for oxygen depletion and carbon dioxide dumping by mechanical equipment and other carbon based pollutants of a building.

William McDonough and Partners of Charlottesville, VA has since implemented this on at least one very large project in Germany. The project called for hundreds of acres of "mitigation trees" to offset certain specific negative effects of that German project. It was actually implemented.

Hope this helps,
Michael Polka
Sustainable development and green highrises
First up, thanks for all the responses. But nothing you guys have said gave an answer to my question. Ok, Frank said sustainability cannot be attributed with high rises; well it has been done -- as Michael said -- by Ken Yeang.. (There's a whole truck load of books by him).

But the question still remains: when considering high-rises, do we have to consider sustainability by itself, or if this effects other major factors what paths do we follow? Still open for debate.
T C
Sustainable development and green highrises
Anyone know where I can get a digital copy of "Utopia on Trial"?
T C
Sustainable development and green highrises
Tilanka, you could try Kings' College University in London. Emiritus Professor Alice Coleman was there quite a few years and very probably someone there will know. :)
Frank John Snelling
Sustainable development and green highrises
Thanks Frank. I will try to do so...
T C
Sustainable development and green highrises
Tilanka,

In simple terms the answer is "it depends". It certanly depends on the objectives of the owner. In Australia the trend has been to incorportae elements of ESD or green architecture and engineering in highrise buildings. There are (Star) Rating schemes that "measure" the level of "greenness". For example, we are presntly involved with one that will have "chilled beam technology" A/C system - first of its kind for a high rise building in Sydney. That building will achieve 4.5+ stars from an energy perspective.

The Property Council of Australia uses the definition which probably answers your question -- "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It calls for a triple bottom line approach to business, balancing environmental, social and economic accountability".
Ashak Nathwani
Sustainable development and green highrises
Indian civilizations have expanded horizontally and were thus sustainable even until this date. Also, the slums that we see around grow horizontally not because they don't know the means to construct vertically, but because they know even if it is destroyed they can rebuild it and keep surviving with minimum losses whereas in a highrise, it's the other way round: the losses incurred cannot be compensated.
Shobha Narayan
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