Are tall towers a sustainable solution to the housing crisis?

Are tall towers a sustainable solution to the housing crisis?

According to New London Architecture, 230 tall buildings are to be built over the next decade, with 80% of these for residential use. But what is the environmental performance of these buildings and the impact of the wellbeing of those who live in them?

Experts discussed the issue of tall towers and whether they are the most sustainable way to accommodate a burgeoning population at the BD Debate held at the North Arena at Ecobuild yesterday afternoon.

The Panel
Nicholas Boys Smith – Create Streets
Ian Simpson – SimpsonHaugh and Partners
Professor Rebecca Tunstall – University of York
Simon Rawlinson – EC Harris
Richard Meier – Argent

Here is a summary of the key discussions:

“Tall towers are the architectural equivalent of the credit crunch” – Nicholas Boys Smith

It was argued that tall towers are a short term solution for the housing crisis and terraced streets could more sustainably solve the problem. From a social perspective, studies show that children in high rise suffered more behavioural problems, inhuman scale discourages courtesy to your neighbours and also increases the ease of crime.

In terms of environmental impact, can a tall building, or even building, ever be completely zero-carbon? The carbon embodied in construction is not always accounted for and as soon as a building is occupied and filled with appliances, cars and people, the building can’t be completely zero-carbon.

Economically, price per ton means steel, cement and glass would crush tower economics. And it’s important to think about the upkeep of towers be funded, for example lift renovation and cladding.

And what about the arguments for tall buildings as a sustainable way to accommodate a burgeoning population?

“Tall buildings bring investment into deprived inner city areas, they are the ultimate form of inner city living” – Ian Simpson

Tall towers create dense city living, a place where people want to live, work and socialise – bringing in wealth, jobs and inner city regeneration while preserving the outer city green belt and avoiding urban sprawl.

Investment is an important part of changing the perception of tall towers, and making them a place where people want to live. Tall, elegant, beautiful buildings can provide security, light, air and tranquillity.

In summary, it’s important to think about the use of tall buildings, as a failure to predict behaviour and events can enhance risk. We should take lessons from the past in order to make the best decisions for the future.

“There are many other solutions to tall towers – but they can be part of solution where there is good transport and community benefits” – Richard Meier

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