The state of construction projects in the MENA

The state of construction projects in the MENA

New figures from GlobalData shed light on the state of construction projects in the Middle East and North Africa and around the world. Here they are as per Investment Monitor.

The state of construction projects in the Middle East and North Africa

By Ben van der Merwe

New figures from GlobalData show that the construction sector in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is healthier than in most other regions and is continuing to improve.

The MENA region has received an overall score of 0.87 in GlobalData’s January 2022 Construction Project Momentum Index, which provides an assessment of the health of the construction project pipeline at all stages of development from announcement through to completion.

Every construction project in GlobalData’s database is assigned a score of between 5 and -5 based on its current progress, a score that is continually updated over time. These are then weighted by the value of each project in order to arrive at overall scores for countries, regions and sectors.

That score puts the MENA region in third place out of 11 regions, and is an increase on its score from December 2021 (0.62) when it ranked in seventh place.

One reason for the region’s relatively good performance in the index is its energy and utilities sector, which scores 1.21, putting it in first place out of 11 regions worldwide.

The MENA region’s institutional sector, by contrast, has performed somewhat worse, with a score of 0.48 (putting it in ninth place globally).

Within the MENA region, construction projects are proceeding with fewest obstacles in Qatar, which scores 2.15 in the index. The situation in Oman, however, is somewhat less positive, with a score of -0.02.

The improving health of the construction pipeline in the MENA region is partly due to the resolution of issues in the region’s energy and utilities sector, which has seen its score in GlobalData’s Construction Project Momentum Index move from 0.51 in December 2021 to 1.21 in January 2022.

The construction sector is also seeing fewer and fewer problems in Qatar, which has seen its score on the index go from 1.07 in December 2021 to 2.15 in January 2022.

The Construction Project Momentum Index

GlobalData’s Construction Project Momentum Index is based on analysis of thousands of individual construction projects around the world.

Each project is continually monitored for updates, with updates indicating progress increasing the project’s score, while updates indicating delays or cancellations reduce the score. The score always sits between 5, the best possible score, and -5, the worst.

The scores for individual projects are then weighted based on their significance in order to create combined indices for each region or sector.

Events that can reduce a project’s score include the project being cancelled or put on hold, delays, the rejection of applications or tender bids, or the reduction of the project’s scope.

Events that can increase a project’s score in the index, by contrast, include the completion or commencement of construction, the awarding of major contracts, or the approval of applications.

Ben van der Merwe is a data journalist at GlobalData Media, specialising in FDI. He joined from the Reach Data Unit, where he was a fellow of the Google News Initiative. His investigative journalism has previously appeared in the Observer, VICE, Private Eye and New Statesman.

The top featured image is for illustration and is credit to InvestorMonitor

Skyscraper design can remove up to 1,000 TONNES of carbon

Skyscraper design can remove up to 1,000 TONNES of carbon

American architectural firm proposes to safeguard the Environment with a Skyscraper design that can remove up to 1,000 TONNES of carbon from the atmosphere

By todayuknews

Designs for a green skyscraper that could remove up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere on an annual basis — the equivalent to growing 48,500 trees — was unveiled at the COP26 conference last week.

Named for the world’s tallest trees, the ‘Urban Sequoia’ design is the brainchild of the Chicago-based architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and is based on technologies that are all available for use today.

Each high-rise would employ multiple approaches to sequester carbon, including construction with carbon-absorbing materials, growth of plants and algae (for fuel, energy and food), and direct air capture technology.

The latter would be aided by the tower design’s ‘stack effect’, which would help draw in air to the centre of the building for processing a carbon extraction — while contributing to the building’s net zero energy system.

In fact, the company has claimed, their Urban Sequoia tower design would be capable, assuming a lifespan of at least 60 years, to absorb up to 4 times the carbon released in the atmosphere as a result of its construction.

Captured carbon could be used to produce biomaterials for roads, pavement, pipes and other items for developing urban infrastructure.

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Designs for a green skyscraper that could remove up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere on an annual basis — the equivalent to growing 48,500 trees — was unveiled at the COP26 conference last week Pictured: a city of Urban Sequoias

Skyscraper design can remove up to 1,000 T. of carbon from the atmosphere
Each high-rise would employ multiple approaches to sequester carbon , including construction with carbon-absorbing materials, growth of plants and algae (for fuel, energy and food), and direct air capture technology — as depicted

Each high-rise would employ multiple approaches to sequester carbon , including construction with carbon-absorbing materials, growth of plants and algae (for fuel, energy and food), and direct air capture technology — as depicted

Environment: Skyscraper design can remove up to 1,000 TONNES of carbon from the atmosphere
Environment: Skyscraper design can remove up to 1,000 TONNES of carbon from the atmosphere

‘We envision a future in which the first Urban Sequoia will inspire the architecture of an entire neighbourhood — feeding into the city ecosystem to capture and repurpose carbon to be used locally, with surplus distributed more widely,’ said Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s senior associate principal Mina Hasman. She added: ‘If every city around the world built Urban Sequoias, the built environment could remove up to 1.6 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere every year’ Pictured: modern-day Laos, left, with the firm’s vision of a greener city, right

CONSTRUCTION’S CARBON FOOTPRINT

According to Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, ‘the need to transform the built environment is clear.’

Construction presently accounts for nearly 40 per cent of all global carbon emissions — a figure that could easily rise in the future without alternative approaches.

In fact, experts have predicted that, come 2060, an extra 230 billion square meters of building stock will be required in the world’s urban centres.

This, the architecture firm, is where Urban Sequoia comes in — allowing the built environment to turn buildings in to solutions, rather than problems, in the growing climate crisis. 

‘This is a pathway to a more sustainable future that is accessible today. Imagine a world where a building helps to heal the planet,’ said Skidmore, Owings & Merrill partner, Kent Jackson.

‘We developed our idea so that it could be applied and adapted to meet the needs of any city in the world, with the potential for positive impact at any building scale.’

‘The power of this idea is how achievable it is,’ agreed Skidmore, Owings & Merrill principal Yasemin Kologlu.

‘Our proposal brings together new design ideas with nature-based solutions, emerging and current carbon absorption technologies and integrates them in ways not done before in the built environment.’

While Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s prototype design is a skyscraper that can sequester up to 1,000 tons of carbon on an annual basis, the carbon capture approaches it uses might be applied to buildings of all types and sizes.

By constructing buildings from materials like bio-brick, biocrete, hempcrete and timber — all of which use less carbon than alternatives, and some of which continue to adsorb carbon over time — it is possible to reduce the carbon impact of construction by 50 per cent as compared to using concrete and steel.

‘A progressive approach could reduce construction emissions by 95 per cent,’ the firm added.

‘We are quickly evolving beyond the idea of being carbon neutral. The time has passed to talk about neutrality,’ elaborated Skidmore, Owings & Merrill partner Chris Cooper.

‘Our proposal for Urban Sequoia — and ultimately entire “forests” of Sequoias — makes buildings, and therefore our cities, part of the solution by designing them to sequester carbon, changing the course of climate change.’

According to the firm, up to 120 tons of carbon could be sequestered per square kilometre (46 tons per square mile) if urban hardscapes were converted into gardens, cities were re-built as intense carbon-absorbing landscapes and streets were retrofitted with additional carbon-capture technologies.

Furthermore, they suggested, this figure could be nearly tripled if these strategies were also applied in parks and other green spaces. 

Skyscraper design can remove up to 1,000 T. of carbon from the atmosphere
Named for the world's tallest trees, the 'Urban Sequoia' design is the brainchild of the Chicago-based architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and is based on technologies that are all available for use today. Depicted: an illustration of how the tower's design would allow it to take it carbon dioxide for storage or usage, while also producing products like biofuel

Named for the world’s tallest trees, the ‘Urban Sequoia’ design is the brainchild of the Chicago-based architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and is based on technologies that are all available for use today. Depicted: an illustration of how the tower’s design would allow it to take it carbon dioxide for storage or usage, while also producing products like biofuel

Skyscraper design can remove up to 1,000 T. of carbon from the atmosphere
The tower design's 'stack effect' would help draw in air to the centre of the building for processing a carbon extraction — while contributing to the building's net zero energy system. Pictured: an artist's impression of the 'Urban Sequoia'  concept

The tower design’s ‘stack effect’ would help draw in air to the centre of the building for processing a carbon extraction — while contributing to the building’s net zero energy system. Pictured: an artist’s impression of the ‘Urban Sequoia’  concept

Skyscraper design can remove up to 1,000 T. of carbon from the atmosphere'
We are quickly evolving beyond the idea of being carbon neutral. The time has passed to talk about neutrality,' said Skidmore, Owings & Merrill partner Chris Cooper. 'Our proposal for Urban Sequoia — and ultimately entire "forests" of Sequoias — makes buildings, and therefore our cities, part of the solution by designing them to sequester carbon'

‘We are quickly evolving beyond the idea of being carbon neutral. The time has passed to talk about neutrality,’ said Skidmore, Owings & Merrill partner Chris Cooper. ‘Our proposal for Urban Sequoia — and ultimately entire “forests” of Sequoias — makes buildings, and therefore our cities, part of the solution by designing them to sequester carbon’

‘If the Urban Sequoia became the baseline for new buildings, we could realign our industry to become the driving force in the fight against climate change,’ said Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s senior associate principal Mina Hasman — a nod to how construction presently accounts for nearly 40 per cent of all global carbon emissions.

‘We envision a future in which the first Urban Sequoia will inspire the architecture of an entire neighbourhood — feeding into the city ecosystem to capture and repurpose carbon to be used locally, with surplus distributed more widely,’ Ms Hasman continued.

‘If every city around the world built Urban Sequoias, the built environment could remove up to 1.6 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere every year.

With immediate focus and investment in SOM’s prototype, we can start this process now and build the first Urban Sequoia,’ she concluded. 

The Urban Sequoia concept was presented by Mr Jackson and Ms Hason in COP26’s Blue Zone on Thursday. 

Skyscraper design can remove up to 1,000 T. of carbon from the atmosphere
While Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's prototype design is a skyscraper that can sequester up to 1,000 tons of carbon on an annual basis, the carbon capture approaches it uses might be applied to buildings of all types and sizes. Pictured: two architectural cross-sections of the high-rise design, showing how each floor integrates air capture and algae systems

While Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s prototype design is a skyscraper that can sequester up to 1,000 tons of carbon on an annual basis, the carbon capture approaches it uses might be applied to buildings of all types and sizes. Pictured: two architectural cross-sections of the high-rise design, showing how each floor integrates air capture and algae systems

Environment: Skyscraper design can remove up to 1,000 TONNES of carbon from the atmosphere
Skyscraper design can remove up to 1,000 T. of carbon from the atmosphere
By constructing the buildings from materials like bio-brick, biocrete, hempcrete and timber — all of which use less carbon that conventional alternatives, and some of which continue to adsorb carbon over time — it is possible to reduce the carbon impact of construction by 50 per cent as compared to the use of concrete and steel. Pictured: two architectural cross-sections of the high-rise design, showing how each floor integrates air capture and algae systems

By constructing the buildings from materials like bio-brick, biocrete, hempcrete and timber — all of which use less carbon that conventional alternatives, and some of which continue to adsorb carbon over time — it is possible to reduce the carbon impact of construction by 50 per cent as compared to the use of concrete and steel. Pictured: two architectural cross-sections of the high-rise design, showing how each floor integrates air capture and algae systems

RESEARCHERS USE ‘ARTIFICIAL’ TREES CLEAN THE AIR IN CITIES

By keeping mosses in a container, such as those built by CityTrees, the conditions can be carefully controlled to ensure the plant is always thriving and therefore performing at optimum air filtration

By keeping mosses in a container, such as those built by CityTrees, the conditions can be carefully controlled to ensure the plant is always thriving and therefore performing at optimum air filtration

CityTrees – also known as artificial trees – use living plants and different types of mosses to capture toxins and remove pollutants from the surrounding environment to produce clean air.

Mosses, despite being a more primitive lifeform than most trees and flowers, conduct photosynthesis. 

This allows them to soak up carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – from the atmosphere and produce oxygen.  

They can also harbour friendly bacteria which further helps trap pollutants. 

By keeping mosses in a container, such as those built by CityTrees, the conditions can be carefully controlled to ensure the plant is always thriving and therefore performing at optimum air filtration. 

Each self-sustaining CityTree contains a water tank, irrigation systems and sensors to monitor plant growth and ensure they are healthy. The technology is powered by a combination of on-board solar panels and internal batteries. 

Each CityTree which has the pollution-reduction benefits of 275 normal trees.

Similar structures have previously been employed in other cities — including Berlin and Hong Kong — along with temporary trials across London. 

Plants also help soak up air pollutants directly. Studies have found that the worst offending air pollution for human health is PM2.5 or airborne fine particulate matter. 

These particulates are dangerous because they can get deep into your lungs, or even pass into your bloodstream. 

Particulates are found in higher concentrations in urban areas, particularly along main roads. 

One study from researchers at Beijing Forestry University in 2017 found ‘foliage acts as a bio-filter of air pollution and improves air quality due to the leaves’ rough texture and large contact area’. 

But the issue with relying on regular trees and plants to filter the air and remove carbon dioxide and pollutants is that they themselves are highly dependent on the environment.

If they are not thriving due to disease, drought or vandalism, they will fail to clean the air effectively.   

Skyscraper design can remove up to 1,000 T. of carbon from the atmosphere
Mosses, despite being a more primitive lifeform than most trees and flowers, conduct photosynthesis. This allows them to soak up carbon dioxide - a greenhouse gas - from the atmosphere and produce oxygen. Plants also directly soak up pollutants

Mosses, despite being a more primitive lifeform than most trees and flowers, conduct photosynthesis. This allows them to soak up carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – from the atmosphere and produce oxygen. Plants also directly soak up pollutants

  

Why low-rise buildings are the future – not skyscrapers

Why low-rise buildings are the future – not skyscrapers

As far as Cities and climate change are concerned: why low-rise buildings are the future – not skyscrapers. Skyscrapers are tall and/or very tall buildings. with advantages and disadvantages. They were considered a forward step within the current civilisation, up until these latter days or years where we started to realise that these structures mean a certain impact on the built environment as described by Ruth Saint, Edinburgh Napier University and Francesco Pomponi, Edinburgh Napier University.

The above image is for illustration and is of Abu Dhabi2.

More than half of the world’s 7.8 billion people live in cities and urban areas. By 2050, an additional 2.5 billion will be living there. As that figure continues to climb and ever more people flock to metropolitan areas in the hope of a better life, the big question is: how do we fit everyone in?

It is the job of city developers and urban planners to figure out how to build or adapt urban environments to accommodate the living and working needs of this rapidly expanding population. There is a popular belief that taller, more densely packed skyscrapers are the way forward, because they optimise the use of space and house more people per square metre and limit urban sprawl.

Why low-rise buildings are the future – not skyscrapers
Paris is an example of a densely built low-rise city. DaLiu/Shutterestock

But given the global commitments to emissions-reduction targets and mitigating climate change, is this the most sustainable solution from a carbon-reduction perspective?

Our recent study, which examined whether building denser and taller is the right path to sustainability, busts this myth: we found that densely built, low-rise environments are more space and carbon efficient, while high-rise buildings have a drastically higher carbon impact.

Impact on the environment

We assessed the whole-life cycle of carbon emissions – meaning both operational and “embodied” carbon – of different buildings and urban environments. Operational carbon is generated while a building is in service. Embodied carbon is all the hidden, behind-the-scenes carbon produced during the extraction, production, transport and manufacture of raw materials used to construct a building, plus any produced during maintenance, refurbishment, demolition or replacement.

This aspect is often overlooked, especially in building design, where operational efficiency is always to the fore. The argument for cutting carbon at the design stage has been made by numerous researchers, and it is gaining traction with leading international organisations such as the World Green Building Council. But it’s still something that is largely disregarded, mainly because embodied impact assessment is voluntary, and there is no legislation concerning its inclusion. But it must be advocated for if we are to reach our 2050 emissions targets.

At a global scale, the construction sector is responsible for a significant impact on the environment, as is clear from the graph below. The largest contribution comes from its consumption of energy and resources, which boils down to the design stage – the part of the process that no one is looking at.

Why low-rise buildings are the future – not skyscrapers
Graph showing construction sector's contribution to environmental impacts.
Construction sector’s contribution to environmental impacts. Edinburgh Napier University

Now that new buildings have to be more energy efficient and the energy grid is being decarbonised, this hidden embodied energy varies from 11%-33% for projects such as Passive House designs (a building standard that uses non-mechanical heating and cooling design techniques to lower energy use) to 74%-100% for near-zero energy builds (high performance buildings where the low amount of energy required comes mostly from renewable sources).

Given the focus on driving down the energy impact of day-to-day operations, the proportional share of embodied energy consumption has been driven up. So as energy demand becomes lower when the building is in use, the materials and activities required to build it in first place produce proportionally more impacts across the building’s lifespan. For example, low and near-zero energy buildings are made by improving insulation and using more materials and additional technologies, which greatly increases the hidden energy impact and carbon cost.

Moving to a smaller scale, the embodied carbon share across construction materials shows that minerals have the largest proportion by far, at 45%. The graph below shows the breakdown of materials, where concrete dominates in terms of hidden carbon contribution. This is important because skyscrapers rely heavily on concrete as a structural material. So the type of materials we use, how much we use, and how we use them is crucial.

Why low-rise buildings are the future – not skyscrapers
Graph showing the carbon contribution of different minerals used in construction.
The carbon contribution of different minerals used in construction. Edinburgh Napier University, Author provided

How we can fix it

We developed four different urban scenarios shown in the graph below, based on data from real buildings: high-density, high-rise (HDHR) which are tall and close together; low-density, high-rise (LDHR) which are tall but more spread out; high-density, low-rise (HDLR) which are low and close together; and low-density, low-rise (LDLR) which are low level and more spaced out.

To do this, we split the building stock into five main categories: non-domestic low-rise (NDLR); non-domestic high-rise (NDHR); domestic low-rise (DLR); domestic high-rise (DHR); and terraced/house. We gathered numerous data, including height, number of storeys, building footprint (the land area the building physically occupies), facade material and neighbouring constraints. This includes the number and area of blocks and green spaces within one square kilometre, average street width and average distance between buildings.

A graphic showing four different urban environments contained in the research study.
Four urban scenarios analysed in the study. Edinburgh Napier University, Author provided

These parameters were all fed into a computer model to analyse the data looking at the following:

1. How whole life-cycle carbon changed based on the buildings and the number of people accommodated within an area of 1km².

2. How whole life-cycle carbon changed due to an increasing population based on four fixed population sizes – 20, 30, 40 and 50 thousand people – and the land use required to accommodate them under the four different urban scenarios.

Our findings show that high-density low-rise cities, such as Paris, are more environmentally friendly than high-density high-rise cities, such as New York. Looking at the fixed population scenarios, when moving from a high-density low-rise to a high-density high-rise urban environment, the average increase in whole life-cycle carbon emissions is 142%.

Why low-rise buildings are the future – not skyscrapers
A panorama of New York's iconic skyscrapers.
New York’s densely packed skyscrapers. Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Equating this to the potential savings per person, based on the fixed population size, building high-density low-rise offers a saving of 365 tonnes of CO₂ equivalent per person compared with high-density high-rise.

It’s time for urban planners to start embedding this new understanding of the whole carbon life-cycle of a building, balancing the impact of urban density and height while accommodating expanding populations. To achieve urban sustainability the world will need more Parises and fewer Manhattans.

Ruth Saint, Postdoctoral research fellow, Edinburgh Napier University and Francesco Pomponi, Associate Professor of Sustainability Science, Edinburgh Napier University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Sept. 11 led to the boom in supertall skyscrapers

Sept. 11 led to the boom in supertall skyscrapers

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

Cities have to accommodate more people, lessen their environmental footprint, and become more equitable.

Sept. 11 led to the boom in supertall skyscrapers
A man cycles past the Oculus structure of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub and the One World Trade Center building in New York
Standing tall.

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.

Sept. 11 led to the boom in supertall skyscrapers
One Vanderbilt, the tallest office tower in midtown Manhattan tops up.
One Vanderbilt, the tallest office tower in midtown Manhattan, opened in Sept 2020.

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 Centerin 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.”

Sept. 11 led to the boom in supertall skyscrapers
The Oculus structure of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub is pictured as people visit the World Trade Center site, formerly known as "Ground Zero", in New York
More ribs: The Oculus at the World Trade Center.

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.”

A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture

A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture

A tall building is not defined by its height or number of stories. The important criterion is whether or not the design is influenced by some aspect of “tallness.”It is a building in which tallness strongly influences planning, design, construction and use: the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

Yanko Design has pertinent pictures of the world’s main trendy construction types to illustrate that statement best. A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture are the elements that come, as it were, to justify the tallness of these structures and take into account all ecological concerns as if to alleviate their higher demand in the required material, men and money.

The above picture is for illustration and is of Yanko Design.

Green Skyscrapers that add a Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture!

By Srishti Mitra on 9 June 2021

A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture

Skyscrapers have taken over most of the major cities today. They’re symbols of wealth and power! And most of the skylines today are adorned with glistening glass skyscrapers. They are considered the face of modern architecture. Although all that glass and dazzle can become a little tiring to watch. Hence, architects are incorporating these tall towers with a touch of nature and greenery! The result is impressive skyscrapers merged with an element of sustainability. These green spaces help us maintain a modern lifestyle while staying connected to nature. We definitely need more of these green skyscraper designs in our urban cities!

A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture
A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture

Zaha Hadid Architects designed a pair of impressive skyscrapers that are linked by planted terraces, for Shenzhen, China. Named Tower C, the structure is 400 metres in height and is supposed to be one of the tallest buildings in the city. The terraces are filled with greenery and aquaponic gardens! They were built to be an extension of a park that is located alongside the tower and as a green public space.

A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture

Polish designers Pawel Lipiński and Mateusz Frankowsk created The Mashambas Skyscraper, a vertical farm tower, that is in fact modular! The tower can be assembled, disassembled and transported to different locations in Africa. It was conceptualised in an attempt to help and encourage new agricultural communities across Africa. The skyscraper would be moved to locations that have poor soil quality or suffer from droughts, so as to increase crop yield and produce.

A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture
A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture

The Living Skyscraper was chosen among 492 submissions that were received for the annual eVolo competition that has been running since 2006. One of the main goals of the project is to grow a living skyscraper on the principle of sustainable architecture. The ambitious architectural project has been envisioned for Manhattan and proposes using genetically modified trees to shape them into literal living skyscrapers. It is designed to serve as a lookout tower for New York City with its own flora and fauna while encouraging ecological communications between office buildings and green recreation centers. The building will function as a green habitable space in the middle of the concrete metropolis.

A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture

ODA’s explorations primarily focus on tower designs, in an attempt to bring versatility and a touch of greenery to NY’s overtly boxy and shiny cityscape. Architectural explorations look at residential units with dedicated ‘greenery zones’ that act as areas of the social congregation for the building’s residents. Adorned with curvilinear, organic architecture, and interspersed with greenery, these areas give the residents a break from the concrete-jungle aesthetic of the skyscraper-filled city. They act as areas of reflection and of allowing people to connect with nature and with one another.

A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture
A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture

Heatherwick Studio built a 20-storey residential skyscraper in Singapore called EDEN. Defined as “a counterpoint to ubiquitous glass and steel towers”, EDEN consists of a vertical stack of homes, each amped with a lush garden. The aim was to create open and flowing living spaces that are connected with nature and high on greenery.

A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture
A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture

Designed by UNStudio and COX Architecture, this skyscraper in Melbourne, Australia features a pair of twisting towers placed around a ‘green spine’ of terraces, platforms, and verandahs. Called Southbank by Beulah, the main feature of the structure is its green spine, which functions as the key organizational element of the building.

A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture

Mad Arkitekter created WoHo, a wooden residential skyscraper in Berlin. The 98-meter skyscraper will feature 29 floors with different spaces such as apartment rentals, student housing, a kindergarten, bakery, workshop, and more. Planters and balconies and terraces filled with greenery make this skyscraper a very green one indeed!

A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture

Algae as energy resources are in their beginnings and are seen as high potential. Extensive research work has dealt with algae as an energy source in recent decades. As a biofuel, they are up to 6 times more efficient than e.g. comparable fuels from corn or rapeseed. The Tubular Bioreactor Algae Skyscraper focuses on the production of microalgae and their distribution using existing pipelines. Designed by Johannes Schlusche, Paul Böhm, Raffael Grimm, the towers are positioned along the transalpine pipeline in a barren mountain landscape. Water is supplied from the surrounding mountain streams and springs, and can also be obtained from the Mediterranean using saltwater.

A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture

Tesseract by Bryant Lau Liang Cheng proposes an architecture system that allows residents to participate in not just the design of their own units; but the programs and facilities within the building itself. This process is inserted between the time of purchase for the unit and the total time required to complete construction – a period that is often ignored and neglected. Through this process, residents are allowed to choose their amenities and their communities, enhancing their sense of belonging in the process. Housing units will no longer be stacked in repetition with no relation whatsoever to the residents living in it – a sentimental bond between housing and men results.

A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture
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In a world devoid of greenery, Designers Nathakit Sae-Tan & Prapatsorn Sukkaset have envisioned the concept of Babel Towers, mega skyscrapers devoted to preserving horticultural stability within a single building. The Babel towers would play an instrumental role in the propagation of greenery in and around the area. These towers would also become attraction centers for us humans, like going to a zoo, but a zoo of plants. Seems a little sad, saying this, but I do hope that we never reach a day where the Babel Tower becomes a necessity. I however do feel that having towers like these now, in our cities, would be a beautiful idea. Don’t you think so too?

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