Manhattan Skyscrapers. Image Source: Famous Wonders
The future looks bright for skyscrapers with cities across the globe becoming denser and an increase in high-rise construction poised to support the vastly growing population of urban areas.
With 80 per cent of those living in developed areas living in cities, today’s skyscraper designs explore modernity, sustainable features and mixed-use environments.
Despite these advances, skyscrapers on the current building list do not vary greatly from convention.
“In terms of the external design of office skyscrapers, we’re seeing more traditional looking buildings,” says Matthew Keutenius, a senior analyst with Emporis, a leading building database.
“We’re seeing glazing glass facades, curtain wall-type buildings where smart and sleek design is preferred but mostly, it’s the sustainability of the building that now matters.”
Developer have traditionally sought uniquely designed buildings to set their cities apart but today many architects have adopted a back-to-basics approach to skyscraper design where sustainability for both the environment and human health is now a design priority.
“Most skyscrapers now make reference to their various sustainable criteria, particularly in Western countries,” says Keutenius. “This includes recyclable materials used, if the building will have a green roof and green water processes.”
He added that modern skyscrapers are incorporating specially engineered facades to heat and cool the buildings, as well as self-heating atriums and green energy features.
One growing trend sees double skins applied to skyscrapers’ facades, with moveable steel and glass elements applied to the exterior of buildings to diffuse sunlight and encourage solar energy.
Abu Dhabi’s Al Bahar Towers are a prime example. More than 1,000 geometric patterned elements open and close depending on the sun’s position to help control the building’s climate. The façade is also aesthetically stunning, paying homage to traditional Arabian architecture and design.
Keutenius also cited The Met in Bangkok, a 69-storey high-rise condominium as an example of sustainable skyscraper architecture. The building features walls of living greenery and spaces designed to allow air to flow through the building and cool the internal units.
“In sticky and uncomfortable environments, this is an example of a skyscraper designed to perform in a challenging climate,” he said.
Living architecture has proven ideal for the urban environment where there may not be land, but vertically, room is plentiful. Along with being aesthetically pleasing, green foliage is being applied to both interior and exterior skyscraper walls and roofs to facilitate air purification, waterproof and cool the buildings, and providing habitat for insects and, in some cases, for edible plants.
“Sustainable skyscrapers appear to be one of the strongest trends in North America, Europe and Australia and we’re even starting to see it in China,” says Keutenius.
Keutenius believes along with the ethical initiative of the industry, compliances like Australia’s Green Star, Britain’s BREEAM assessments and LED requirements in the US are contributing to the sustainable focus of skyscrapers design.
In terms of skyscrapers in the construction pipeline, Emporis has observed a skyscraper boom in Canada, primarily in the city of Toronto. The city is closely following in the footsteps of New York City’s skyline with 15 skyscrapers currently under construction, all standing over 45 storeys tall.
Toronto will boast 207 skyscrapers and 2,043 high rise buildings by 2015, including the 277-metre Trump International Hotel and Tower.
Skyscrapers offering mixed-use environments are also on the rise.
“The vast majority of the buildings going up in Canada are residential buildings designed to be owner occupied,” says Keutenius. “We’ve found the taller the building becomes, the more likely it will be a mixed-use.”
Other cities experiencing a boom in skyscraper construction include Mumbai, Istanbul and Melbourne.
Earlier this month, the controversial 388-metre tall Australia 108 skyscraper was approved for Melbourne. Upon completion, the tower will be the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere and will offer a mixed-use environment of residential, hotel, office and retail space.
Chinese cities are also seeing huge growth in skyscraper activity according to Keutenius.
“New projects are constantly turning up, starting or about to start,” explains Keutenius, citing cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. ”But due to the abundance of construction projects across China, it can be very difficult to extract accurate skyscraper data out of it.”
When asked about the increase of high density areas, Keutenius believes in personal choice being the driving factor and how ministers and mayors view the future of their cities’ urban planning strategies.
“I think in the end it comes down to personal option,” he explains. “High density, specifically in Manhattan has been a fact of life for the past 80 years and one would not question the value and purpose of this type of living in such a city.”
As skyscrapers continue to shape city skylines, architecture and design have moved beyond aesthetics and function, placing increased emphasis on the environment and human well-being.