Green skyscrapers imply dense urban development and should attempt to capitalize on this important asset. While green skyscraper proponents are stressing the importance of tall buildings, a more critical analysis suggests that the way towards sustainable urban development is more complex. The discussion over the energy efficiency of skyscrapers is just part of a wider debate over what sort of cities we want to inhabit in the future. It may be true that a skyscraper will consume more energy than a much smaller building, but within the wider context of urban design, the raw data of energy consumption does not tell the whole story.
It is believed that taller buildings make more efficient use of urban space and existing infrastructure and provide one solution to the problem of urban sprawl. Proponents of urban planning believed that the city must build upwards in designated “activity centers”, rather than continually invade upon the surrounding countryside. Many cities around the world are taking the same approach and building up innovative buildings following the principles of green design to high rise buildings. However, the key issue of sustainability requirement for green skyscrapers revolves around the need for a common agenda between investors, developers, landlords, tenants, and their respective supply chains.
Although, green skyscrapers can significantly reduce the consumption of energy, produce energy from renewable resources, reduce the production of wastewater and reduce material wastes into landfills, they should also be measured by their impacts in other areas of concern to city planners. One such area of concern is whether green skyscrapers can provide public spaces that are accessible. Another area of concern is whether they can physically be integrated into the urban fabric of the city from the standpoint of building mass and height. In an urban environment, it is the combined effects of the buildings themselves and the collective supporting mechanisms that should be optimized in order to promote sustained urban development. Therefore the value of green skyscrapers and its utility will need to be viewed in this greater context.
Green skyscrapers can never be viewed in isolation. Their contribution to the growth of a city, their impact on the cityscape, their relationship with neighboring buildings and their effects upon the people who use them are the ultimate test. In the design of the new generation of tall buildings, the best designers must strive for the highest quality and appropriateness to enhance the built environment and amenity in their designs. Sensitive design of tall buildings must create a positive sense of place by appealing on human scale to both occupiers and passers-by. This vision can succeed, if designers consider the city needs of better public spaces, improvements in air quality, and ecology and bio-diversity.
The new generation of green skyscrapers should be memorable in appearance as well as resource efficient and people-friendly in function. They should be more permeable to people and more responsive to environmental conditions to embrace sustainable development. Whatever the future holds for green skyscrapers or tall buildings, their development must become more sustainable in a triple-bottom-line approach, environment, economy and people.
1. Main picture: http://smilepanic.com/amazing-skyscrapers