This QUARTZ‘s article about Rethinking cities, could be yet another way of demonstrating that nothing could affect nor alter the development of a town’s built environment. It has, on the contrary, ended up in teaching us the hard lessons of Sept. 11 led to the boom in supertall skyscrapers. It is by Anne Quito, Design and architecture reporter. But despite that Is it Time to Stop Building Skyscrapers? Let us see in any case what it all boils down to.
The hard lessons of Sept. 11 led to the boom in supertall skyscrapers
After the Sept. 11 attacks, former New York’s mayor Rudy Giuliani encouraged developers to build low. Like many, he feared Manhattan’s tall buildings would become targets for terrorists, after seeing how swiftly the twin towers crumbled.
Twenty years later, quite the opposite has happened. For better or worse, New York City’s skyline is populated with ever taller and taller skyscrapers, with the highest among them in the heart of the original World Trade Center complex. Nearly all of the city’s supertalls—the term for a structure that rises above 300 meters (984 ft)—were built after 2001. Many of them are luxury condos clustered along 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park.
Outside New York City, supertalls built after 2001 include the Trump International Hotel and Tower and the St.Regis in Chicago, the Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia, the Wilshire Grand Center in Los Angeles, and Salesforce Tower in San Francisco. Before Sept 11, there were 20 supertalls in the world. Today, there are more than 200 and several more are in various stages of construction.
How did Americans go from a mistrust of tall buildings to an unprecedented growth in skyscrapers in the US? In a word, science.
It stems from a steely belief in engineering innovation after the attacks, says Carl Galioto, president of the global design and architecture firm HOK. “I think it has to do with confidence,” he says.
Galioto would know. Prior to HOK, he was a partner at the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merril (SOM) and was an architect-of-record for two of the towers that were rebuilt at the World Trade Center complex. Galioto also worked with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology to translate its forensic reports to improving the international building code.
Changes in building safety regulations after 9/11
Innovations in building safety led to the current boom in supertall buildings, Galioto says. “There is a direct relationship between the developments in building science related to high-rise construction and the perception of improved safety that allowed supertall towers in New York to be commercially viable,” he says.
About 30 safety and security recommendations were added to the building code as a result of the twin tower collapse. They included widening staircases, using thicker glass on the lower levels, using reinforced concrete for a building’s core, installing back-up power systems, and reserving a dedicated elevator for firefighters. There was a greater understanding of “progressive collapse,” when a succession of structures falls like a stack of cards. There was also a renewed appreciation for bollards and the variety of creative forms they could take.
Some of that work included changing the fundamental understanding of safety. Before Sept. 11, building occupants were considered safe when they reached a fire-proof staircase. After learning that more than 200 people perished in the World Trade Center’s elevators, regulations were updated so people were only counted safe only when they reached the ground.
Galioto and his colleagues at SOM used the two towers they designed—One World Trade Center and 7 World Trade—as a kind of showcase for innovations in building safety. Galioto says he has immense trust in skyscrapers. “Not only do I feel confident about working at One World Trade Center, I felt confident enough that my daughters can work there,” he says. “I think it’s the safest building in New York.”
How much did Sept 11 change architecture?
Galioto remembers how the public came up with zany burning-tower escape plans during that time, such as giving parachutes to top floor occupants or designing chains and outriggers to trap wayward plans. “They were somewhere between Jules Verne and Rube Goldberg,” he says. Galioto recalls one proposal that involved installing escape chutes on the side of buildings. “As if people could just slide down 50 stories and pop out of the air like party favors,” he says. “We very quickly realized that people are safer if they don’t jump out of buildings.”
As to whether the Sept. 11 terrorist attack changed the building industry, Galioto says its impact is proportionate. He questions the notion that terrorism is the foremost fear in the mind of architects. “There’s only as much paranoia as there’s a concern for designing for earthquakes or hurricanes,” he says. “If you look at it objectively, it [anti-terrorism concerns] is just another set of design criteria.”
Santiago Calatrava, the widely admired Spanish architect says what happened in New York 20 years ago reverberates through his practice. “The tragic events of September 11th have undoubtedly made an impact on my practice as both an architect and engineer,” says Calatrava, who designed the Oculus transport hub and the soon-to-be-completed St. Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center, in an email to Quartz. “There became new elements to consider in our designs such as building reinforcements, the use of resistant materials, and simply reimagining the flow of a space.”
Calatrava explains that he had to modify his original scheme for the Oculus—the bird-shaped building adjacent to the 9/11 Memorial—after the sequence of terrorist events after Sept 11. “Following the terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2007, the structural design of the Oculus was modified per instructions from the New York Police Department and other responsible authorities to suit newly established security requirements,” he says. “One key change included reinforcing the support structure for the Oculus’ planned ‘wings’ to improve blast resistance. The Oculus had to have twice the number of steel ribs and a column free space was recommended.”
A different line of defense
If engineers have figured out the structure, urban planners say that New York still needs to reckon with the spirit behind building so many gleaming skyscrapers. Vishaan Chakrabarti was the director of the Manhattan office for the New York planning department during the decisive years of the World Trade Center’s reconstruction. In an email, he says engineering sturdy buildings is just half the battle.
Investing in welcoming public spaces is a better plan than creating exclusive “bubbles of security,” as Chakrabarti puts it. He echoes urbanist Jane Jacobs’s theory that a vibrant streetscape is the best form of security. “I wrote back then that using architecture and urbanism as a last line of defense when our national security fails is a mistake, and it continues to be so,” argues Chakrabarti, now the dean of the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design. “Security was obviously critical after the attacks, but unfortunately we are always fighting the last war.”
Challenges to ecological and social sustainability require us to integrate limits to resource consumption into all areas, including residential space, write Doris Fuchs, Sylvia Lorek, Pia Mamut and Nils Blossey.
Doris Fuchs is a German political scientist and professor of international relations and sustainable development at the University of Münster, Chair of International Relations and Sustainable Development. She authored this opinion piece together with researchers Sylvia Lorek, Pia Mamut, and Nils Blossey.
Multiple socio-ecological crises challenge our societies to reconfigure patterns of resource consumption. As we are increasingly approaching the exhaustion of planetary boundaries, sustainability and a societal dialogue about how to achieve it need to be introduced to all spheres of human life.
Importantly, the introduction of such measures does not pursue an introduction of lower standards of living, but rather careful planning and inclusive political processes to ascertain what sustainable living spaces that take account of social minima and ecological maxima can look like.
Clearly, humans need to be endowed with a minimum amount of material resources and space to be capable of attaining physical and psychological wellbeing – for many people especially in the Global South this would correspond to more, rather than less space and resources.
Thus, scholars and practitioners have outlined a range of minimum space standards for basic needs satisfaction regarding housing, which are partially based on context-specific parameters in terms of location and building.
Rao and Min, for instance, define a household space of 30m2 for up to three inhabitants and an additional minimum of 10m2 per each further person as a minimum threshold to provide decent living conditions.
The NYC Building Code, in turn, identifies as a standard that at least one room in a dwelling unit must have a size of 13,9 to 20m2, for example. Societal minima for living space may also vary depending on cultural and regional contexts.
Finally, discussions of minimum housing requirements are also driven by rising real estate prices and rents as well as shrinking space in metropolitan areas.
On the other end of the spectrum, the average size of residential homes in advanced economies has generally increased despite declining household size. As home size increases, so does the associated consumption of energy and other resources.
From a perspective of planetary boundaries, therefore, it becomes clear that we also need to engage in a societal dialogue about consumption maxima with respect to residential space.
In this vein, recent studies have calculated how much space an individual could use from a one-planet-perspective and assuming intra- and intergenerational justice. In such calculations, Lettenmeier arrives at an estimated target of 20m2 of residential space per capita.
Grubler et al. attribute more potential to improvements in energy efficiency and arrive at an estimate of 30m2 per capita (in 2050), which equals the present average in the Global North. For a family of four, then, estimates of residential space beyond which ecological boundaries are endangered range between 80-120m2.
Thinking about both social minima and ecological maxima is important for the future wellbeing of humans on this planet. Indeed, they belong together, as the concept of consumption corridors delineates.
However, whereas social minimum standards for housing easily evoke broad approval, thinking about upper limits to residential space is considerably more challenging. Maxima to residential space inevitably lead to conflicts of interest between members of society, which need to be balanced out in democratic processes.
Importantly, such upper (and even lower) limits should therefore not be envisioned as being based solely on scientific estimates and top-down enforcement. On the contrary, broad societal dialogue is necessary to generate an improved understanding of social and ecological conditions and needs, conflicts between them, and options for their joint pursuit.
Moreover, policies supporting the availability of adequate and affordable housing and addressing rising structural inequalities in the housing market need to be implemented alongside any focus on consumption minima and maxima with respect to residential space.
In addition, appropriate infrastructural measures need to ensure that potential contributions to one-planet lifestyles, which may result from current trends towards co-living, smaller home sizes, and cooperative house ownership can be realised.
Challenges to ecological and social sustainability require us to make complex decisions and to integrate limits to resource consumption into our practices and policies across consumption fields. We need to openly discuss social minima and ecological maxima with respect to residential space – just as in any other consumption field.
In this article by Vinit Dungarwal, Director, AMs Project Consultants, meeting the demand for sustainable housing and green buildings, is proposed as the safest path towards environmentally responsible and resource-efficient buildings making up the future built environment. The vital trend should unify all development with however regional and local specifics.
The above Image for illustrative purpose is of Pinterest.
Meeting the demand for sustainable housing and green buildings
Sustainability in the real estate context is not only limited to energy conservation but also includes the use of resources, impact on the surrounding environment and living conditions for inhabitants.
The climate change conversation in India has picked pace in the last few years. Millennials and Gen X consistently rate the environment and climate change as the two issues they worry most about. All industries and sectors have now consciously been working towards reducing the carbon footprint and even real estate sector is doing its bit. Even governments are now giving various incentives to push eco-friendly development. To put things in perspective, buildings contribute to one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions and consume 40 per cent of the world’s energy. In addition to this, the construction sector in India is responsible for about 22 per cent of our total CO2 emissions.
Hence, to cope with changing as well as challenging times, it has become extremely important for us to think about sustainability in this sector. The focus needs to shift on using alternate resources and technologies which help in saving cost and resources and at the same time align in regards to the objective of having minimal impact on the environment for a balanced life.
In the post-COVID-19 world, where increased focus is being laid on overall wellbeing, it is said that sustainability will be the main element.
What are Green Buildings and Why do they matter
The global green building movement started about two decades back. The genesis of this movement was to cut down the use of extravagant resource consumption in modern buildings. In India too, the demand for having Green Buildings has increased tremendously in the last 10 years. As per estimates, India’s green building market will double by 2022 and reach 10 billion sq ft and will be valued at USD 35-50 billion.
Environmentally responsible and resource-efficient buildings are usually classified as a green building. These buildings not only reduce or eliminate negative impacts on the environment, by using less water, energy or natural resources, but in the long run even have a positive impact on the environment. This is possible as they are capable of generating their own electricity, have better ways to harvest water and even increase biodiversity.
The homebuyers of today are not just aware of these buildings but are also looking for these features for the obvious benefits that they offer. There is an increased demand for a home that has ample sunlight, proper ventilation and access to freshwater. People are also increasingly aware of the materials that are being used in construction and the impact these have on the environment.
Benefits of Green Building
Sustainability in the real estate context is not only limited to energy conservation but also includes the use of resources, impact on the surrounding environment and living conditions for inhabitants. Green homes can help in saving time and money as the materials used are easily accessible. In some of these buildings, developers buy the materials locally, which not only saves time but also reduces the carbon footprint by minimising the distance they need to be shipped. This helps in creating a sense of community and supporting the domestic economy.
Apart from the cost-benefit, there are many social drivers for green buildings that include improved occupant health and well-being and increased worker productivity. Given the environmental benefits and the satisfaction, it brings to the workforce green buildings are increasingly being sought after by the corporate sector.
Need for Affordable Green Buildings
It is a known fact that eco-friendly buildings help in saving operational costs by cutting down electricity, water and other utility bills. However, it is often perceived that the cost of construction for these buildings can be higher. Green concepts and techniques in the affordable housing sector can help attain a reduction in energy and water consumption, improved health, hygiene, sanitation; better ventilation and light in the dwellings, etc.
There are many low-cost techniques that are being deployed that help in cutting down even the cost of building. In addition, the use of recyclable products that are locally available can further help in bringing down the cost of development. Most importantly, the use of eco-friendly materials will help enhance the occupants’ quality of lives.
In India, the market for affordable housing has seen a strong uptick in the last two years and that, in turn, is also fuelling the demand for green buildings.
Key aspects that green building focus on are:
# Waste Nothing – Avoiding wastage is one great way to cut down the materials that are being used.
# Adapt to the place/location/building – Every place has its own set of challenges and solutions. Solutions that work for a building in Shimla will not hold true for, say, another one in Mumbai. So, builders need to think on their feet and adapt to the environment.
# Optimise rather than maximise – Whatever materials are available, one should try and use them in very optimised manner rather than maximizing the number of materials.
# Build sustainable designs that last longer – In the bid to use sustainable material one should never compromise on durability.
# Use materials that can be reused/recycled – There are many materials that can be reused and thus help in saving cost. For example, corridor and verrandah flooring has can be made using waste marble, kadappah, kota and red Agra pieces, with a simple IPS Border. This move alone can help save at least 30% cost over regular floor options. Another option could be using natural stones instead of using ready-made colours from the market. This gives graceful look to the bare concrete structure.
# Adopt energy efficient measures that help in saving costs in the long run – The focus should be to adopt methods that help in lowering cost of day-to-day living. Relying on renewable energy can help in reducing the monthly bills by up to 20-30 per cent.
The big Green push
Though at a nascent stage, India has emerged as one of the leading countries in terms of green building projects. India ranks only second after the US in terms of the number of green technology projects and built-up area. The Indian government too has played a pivotal role in promoting green building. A significant step in this direction was taken in 2007 with the introduction of the Energy Conservation Building Code, which was launched by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency and later updated in 2017.
Additionally, several government agencies have acknowledged and incentivised green buildings, including central agencies such as the Ministry of Skill Development and the Small Industries Development Bank of India, as well as State governments and municipal bodies across India. Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) in the past few years has been working intrinsically with several Central and State Government agencies to promote the green building movement in the country. Some of the Central and State Government agencies have given recognition to IGBCs’ Green Rating Systems. This too has helped in fuelling the trend for green building in India.
There is a huge scope for Green buildings in India. Given the advantages it offers, the incentives that the government is providing to this construction and the growing demand by the environment-conscious consumers, the future for this segment seems very bright.
Posted by Zeena Saifi, CNN on 18 July 2021, is the story of Qatar’s Ras Abu Aboud stadium that is the first built-in World Cup history meant to be torn down after the games. Would the same authorities, at this conjecture, have second thoughts?
Qatar’s Ras Abu Aboud stadium is the first built in World Cup history that was meant to be torn down after the games
It was once a quiet waterfront, only enjoying the occasional sounds from the nearby Gulf shores. Now, it’s a dizzying burst of color and life — soon to be filled with up to 40,000 screaming fans.
It is Qatar’s Ras Abu Aboud stadium — the first built in World Cup history that was meant to be torn down.
Molded out of 974 shipping containers atop Doha’s port, the Ras Abu Aboud will host seven matches up to the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup.
All the containers are made from recycled steel, and the number — 974 — symbolizes Qatar’s dialing code.
It’s both a symbol of the country’s sustainability pledge and a reflection of its identity.
After the tournament is over, many parts of the arena — including all the removable seats, containers and even the roof — will be dismantled and repurposed for use in other sporting or non-sporting events, either inside or outside of Qatar.
“The 40,000-seater venue can be dismantled in full and transported to be built again in a different country; or you could build two 20,000-seater venues,” Mohammed Al Atwan, project manager for Ras Abu Aboud told CNN.
“Really, all parts can be donated to countries in need of sporting infrastructure. This is the beauty of the stadium — the legacy opportunities are endless.”
Along with the opportunities he says it offers, Qatar is hoping the stadium will be a trailblazer for future football tournaments.
A FIFA report in June estimated the 2022 World Cup to produce up to 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, that’s 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 more than the 2018 tournament in Russia created.
Nonetheless, the Gulf state is committed to delivering a carbon-neutral World Cup through offsetting emissions — before, during and after the event.
Organizers have promised sustainable building methods during the construction of the tournament’s infrastructure, such as the Ras Abu Abboud stadium, adding that they have procured “building materials that maximize resource efficiency and reduce emissions, waste and impacts on biodiversity.”
The SC says it is committed to keeping sustainability a main focus throughout the tournament — an example of this is planting trees and plants around the World Cup’s infrastructure to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
The onus, however, isn’t just on the organizers. Qatar says it will give recommendations to attendees and participants of the tournament on how they can reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, including from travel, accommodation and food and beverage.
Once the spectacle is over, Qatar says it will offset any emissions generated during the tournament through building two mega solar power plants over the following 10-15 years, and by proactively supporting sustainable and low-carbon events in Qatar and the region
The reusability of the stadium’s parts is a reflection of that effort.
“Sustainability and legacy have always been at the forefront of Qatar’s planning and preparations for the World Cup,’ said Al Atwan.
When coming up with the stadium’s design, Al Atwan said movability was the main consideration for choosing shipping containers as the building blocks.
Containers are designed to be transported, either by air or sea, but when joined together to form a whole, they transform into a sturdy structure.
That ended up reducing the waste created on site during construction, says Al Atwan, adding that the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium has set a benchmark for sustainable and green mega-sporting event infrastructure.
Unlike the other seven Qatar 2022 venues, Ras Abu Aboud’s temporary nature meant that fewer building materials were required, keeping construction costs down and shortening the time needed to complete it.
Construction on the 4.8 million square feet (450,000 square meters) site commenced in late 2017 and is scheduled for completion by the end of this year, according to organizers.
Cooling sea breeze
When a fan steps outside Ras Abu Aboud, they’re met by Doha’s West Bay skyline. So when the sun goes down, a symphony of color — exchanged between the shimmering skyscrapers on one side and the stadium on the other — reflects off the shores and lights up the city.
And that proximity to the water doesn’t only offer attractive views.
All of Qatar’s World Cup stadiums are equipped with highly efficient cooling systems that maintain a comfortable atmosphere regardless of the hot temperatures outside.
But Ras Abu Aboud doesn’t need one because it gets a natural cool breeze from the sea nearby.
“Post-2022, the redevelopment of the site could take many forms and its legacy plans are still being finalized. It could be redeveloped into a public green space or used for a mix of commercial and residential projects,” said Al Atwan.
“It’s prime location means it’s suited to many projects and has an exciting future,” he added.
That future is not only physical, Al Atawan tells CNN. “Mega-sporting events like the FIFA World Cup have the power to inspire, prompt innovation and push existing boundaries to achieve new levels of success.”
Climate change will affect every aspect of our lives – including the buildings we live and work in. Most people in the US, for example, spend about 90% of their time indoors. Climate change is fundamentally altering the environmental conditions in which these buildings are designed to function.
Architects and engineers design buildings and other structures, like bridges, to operate within the parameters of the local climate. They’re built using materials and following design standards that can withstand the range of temperatures, rainfall, snow and wind that are expected, plus any geological issues such as earthquakes, subsidence and ground water levels.
When any of those parameters are exceeded, chances are some aspect of the building will fail. If there are high winds, some roof tiles may be ripped off. If, after days of heavy rain, the water table rises, the basement might flood. This is normal, and these problems cannot be designed out entirely. After the event has passed, the damage can be repaired and additional measures can reduce the risk of it happening again.
But climate change will breed conditions where these parameters are exceeded more often and to a far greater degree. Some changes, like higher average air temperatures and humidity, will become permanent. What were previously considered once in a century floods may become a regular occurrence.
Some of these impacts are fairly obvious. Houses will be more prone to overheating, putting the lives of residents at risk, which is what has happened during the recent “heat dome” over North America. Flooding will happen more often and inundate greater areas, to the point that some places might have to be abandoned. The village of Fairbourne in Wales has already been identified as a likely candidate. Failure to act on both of these threats in the UK was highlighted in a recent report by the Climate Change Committee.
To some extent, these impacts will be localised and containable, with fairly simple remedies. For example, overheating can be reduced by shading windows with awnings or blinds, good insulation, and ample ventilation. Perhaps more worrying are the insidious effects of climate change which gradually undermine the core functions of a building in less obvious ways.
Termites and melting asphalt
More intense wind and rain will cause external cladding to deteriorate more rapidly and leak more often. Higher temperatures will expand the regions where some insects can live. That includes timber-eating termites that can cause major structural damage, or malaria-carrying mosquitoes which living spaces must be redesigned to protect us from.
Materials expand as they get hotter, especially metals, which can cause them to buckle once their designed tolerance is exceeded. For one skyscraper in Shenzhen, China, high temperatures were partially blamed for causing the structure to shake, forcing its evacuation, as the steel frame stretched in the heat. Extreme temperatures can even cause materials to melt, resulting in roads “bleeding” as the surface layer of bitumen softens.
Subsidence – when the ground below a structure gives way, causing it to crack or collapse – is also expected to happen more often in a warmer world. Buildings with foundations in clay soils are particularly vulnerable, as the soils swell when they absorb water, then harden and shrink as they dry out. Changing rainfall patterns will exacerbate this. Over the next 50 years, for example, more than 10% of properties in Britain will be affected by subsidence.
Perhaps the biggest concern is how climate change will affect reinforced concrete, one of the most widely used materials on Earth. Used in everything from skyscrapers and bridges to the lintels above windows in homes, reinforced concrete is made by placing steel rods within a mould and pouring wet concrete in. Once dry, this produces incredibly strong structures.
But a warmer wetter climate will play havoc with the durability of this material. When the steel inside the concrete gets wet it rusts and expands, cracking the concrete and weakening the structure in a process sometimes referred to as “concrete cancer”.
Buildings in coastal areas are especially susceptible as the chloride in salt water accelerates rusting. Rising sea levels will raise the water table and make it saltier, affecting building foundations, while salt-spray will spread further on stronger winds.
At the same time, the concrete is affected by carbonation, a process where carbon dioxide from the air reacts with the cement to form a different chemical element, calcium carbonate. This lowers the pH of the concrete, making the steel even more prone to corrosion. Since the 1950s, global CO₂ levels have increased from about 300 parts per million in the atmosphere to well over 400. More CO₂ means more carbonation.
The tragic recent collapse of an apartment building in Miami in the US may be an early warning of this process gaining speed. While the exact cause of the collapse is still being investigated, some are suggesting it might be linked to climate change.
The local mayor, Charles Burkett, summed up the bewilderment many felt:
It just doesn’t happen. You don’t see buildings falling down in America.
Whether or not the link to climate change proves to be true, it is nevertheless a wake up call to the fragility of our buildings. It should also be seen as a clear demonstration of a critical point: wealth does not protect against the effects of climate change. Rich nations have the financial clout to adapt more rapidly and to mitigate these impacts, but they can’t stop them at the border. Climate change is indiscriminate. Buildings are vulnerable to these impacts no matter where in the world they are, and if anything, the modern buildings of developed countries have more things in them that can go wrong than simpler traditional structures.
The only option is to begin adapting buildings to meet the changing parameters in which they are operating. The sooner we begin retrofitting existing buildings and constructing new ones that can withstand climate change, the better.
Originally posted on MENA Solidarity Network: By Anzar Atrar and David Karvala At 4 am on Saturday 21 August, Spanish authorities took Mohamed Abdellah —along with around 30 other Algerians— from the migrant custody centre in Barcelona and deported him. This was bad news for all of them, of course. But Abdellah, an Algerian anti-corruption…
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