Vertical forest towers, cloud corridors, green skyscrapers: however you envision your urban future, these galvanized giants will be popping up in city skylines near you. How will vertical cities fit and unfurl on a global level in the coming future? Green energy news points towards significant strides in towering, eco-friendly architecture.
Emerging Trends, Concerns, and Facts
With global energy consumption equivalent to 81.5 trillion barrels of oil, or enough to stretch to the Moon and back 100 times, the world has been long overdue for more efficient designs. Single family homes in the U.S. drain more energy than that of all of the nation’s offices, schools, universities, hospitals, grocery stores, and malls. Efficiency is largely influenced by both the culture of the occupants and construction practices—high-tech solutions aren’t always a cure-all.
In 1984, Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) created one of the first skyscrapers to truly follow an environmental approach. The National Commercial Bank of Jeddah is set in the Saudi Arabian desert and features an introverted glass curtain wall away from the direct solar gain to occupy the internal face of the skyscraper, shielded to the outside by strategically positioned sky gardens cut into each face of the triangular plan—a plan later used on a much larger scale for the Commerzbank Tower in Frankfurt, Germany in 1997.
The radical effects these structures can have on even the most populous areas can be profound. While benefiting more tenants and offering abundant public space, as these buildings soar, more demands are made on the local environment and surrounding infrastructure.
The book Eco-Towers: Sustainable Cities in the Sky illustrates how these lanky projects are built around the world along with features such as “seawater-powered air conditioning, large-scale recycling of gray and black water, helical wind turbines and sunlight-sensing LED lights.” This relationship can be symbiotic with the civic space when mindfulness and obligatory competition between LEED industry leaders comes into play.
For example, the Eco Skyscraper in Pawar boasts “walkways spanning the upper levels are studded with a massive set of wind turbines—not unlike the turbines spanning the Bahrain World Trade Center. The skyscraper supplements this wind energy with power produced from solar arrays, while passive design strategies reduce the building’s overall environmental footprint.”
The upfront costs of expensive green features are countered by the longevity of these new structures or retrofitting outdated buildings. And sustainable tech isn’t just supporting booming populations; modern skyscrapers are “eco-iconic”.
Eco-Towers: Sustainable Cities in the Sky author Kheir Al-Kodmany suggests that these edifices will be more prevalent and inspire new aesthetics. Nuanced features include “compressed, fire-resistant hardwoods in buildings as tall as 30 stories, UltraRope elevator cables that are stronger yet lighter to increase speed and reduce energy use, and heliostats—computerized mirrors that maximize reflected
Al-Kodmany describes early green designs from the 1890s, where “H” or “U” shapes with central atria
utilized natural light and ventilation like the iconic Chrysler Building. Marketability and regulation may have to take a backseat to demand from surging population growth.
“Ultimately, the eco-tower that embraces the technology of an era, local culture and the environment while being cost-effective will set the path,” said Al-Kodmany.
Less urban space spells upward development for emerging markets. Modern elevator technology has risen to the challenges of swelling skylines with quick, aerodynamic solutions. ThyssenKrupp has configured an efficient method of moving the 3.5 million visitors looking to take in the panoramic views from 104-story One World Trade Center’s Observation Deck. Major concerns for some of North America’s fastest lifts included aerodynamics
Exciting plans in the works include “The Trellis” in the UK, Orlando’s 700-foot Skyplex, Saudi Arabia’s 3,290-foot Kingdom Tower, the Rosemont Towers—complete with rainforest and beach—in the middle of the Dubai desert, Beijing’s LEGO-inspired Vijayawada Garden Estate, Germany’s pendulous Phänomenta Science Centre, an Italian floating, living vertical city, Dallas’ own twisted Rolex Building, and so many more stunning skyward developments.