Tall Structures with High Aims
The future of building lies in the vertical direction – at least that's what a look at the constantly growing metropolises of the world suggests. A symposium concerned with greater sustainability of high-rise buildings took place at the University of Stuttgart.
In contrast to Singapore, Australia suffers from a shortage of water. The City of Sydney therefore seeks to save about one quarter of its water demand through more efficient sanitary facilities by 2015; a further 12% cut is planned through multiple use of water. Christoph Ingenhoven's “1 Bligh” office tower is a progressive example of how this aim can be achieved. The building has its own small sewage treatment plant that not only treats grey water from the building itself, but also waste water from the municipal canalisation, making it usable for cooling the building.
A further feature of this Ingenhoven design is the double skin façade, which is already established in Germany. It was a novelty for Australian high-rise construction on this scale however and allows a movable solar protection system to be used in the space between the façades. The system protects tenants from the north sun when it is high in the sky, while still permitting a clear outside view during 90% of office hours. This is a further reason for Ingenhoven to continue to use fully glazed façades for tall office buildings – after all the view is part of the incentive for tenants to pay premium prices. The fact that some people design tall buildings with perforated façades is incomprehensible to the architect from Duesseldorf.
The people living in "Torre David" in the Venezuelan capital Caracas have a completely different set of problems. The 45-storey office building, which last made the news as winner of the Golden Lion at the Architecture Biennale in Venice, has an eventful history behind it and possibly a promising future ahead. Planned in the early 90s, the investor died just before completion of the building, and the subsequent economic crisis in the country sealed the fate of the unfinished project. Years of vacancy followed, until a community of homeless locals occupied the tower and quickly transformed it into a kind of vertical favela. Parts of the glass façade were dismounted and sold; the remaining holes were closed single-handedly using cheaper materials. In the meantime, a well-functioning micro-cosmos has been created inside the building – with own shops and hairdressers, improvised sports halls and fitness studios and a lively social network based on neighbourhood help and bartering.
The Shard was optimised ecologically in many different places: the support structure is for instance composed of a sequence of concrete – steel – concrete – steel from the bottom to the top, because this was found to be the most efficient solution in terms of material use. As far as placement of the elevators in the core of the building was concerned, the architects and engineers fought for every square centimetre of space, which was in turn reflected by material savings in the core walls. The CO2 emission associated with cement production was reduced by addition of slag sand.
The mobility energy that this building saves is in another league: a total of 48 parking spaces are allocated for the 8,000 residents and employees; to make up for this meagre number, London Bridge Train Station and the eponymous bus station are situated right next door (and were also newly constructed in the course of the project). The social benefit of the project should not be ignored according to project manager Jack Carter at Renzo Piano Building Workshop: the taxes and charges that the investor had to pay Southwark, the London borough in which the tower is located, added up to over 100 British pounds per person living in the borough. Money which is now available for schools and social housing, for example.
The ILEK announced that the symposium series is to be continued in the future. Whether the topic will again be about tall buildings is not yet known. In its present form, the symposium is a source of inspiration and an opportunity for exchange for all established and prospective designers of tall buildings. The idea of combining fundamental knowledge with examples of built projects from all over the world could however be reassessed: some presentations at TBSF2012 were simply too basic for a reasonably experienced audience to learn something new from.
A missing aspect that should perhaps be focused more on in future is what can be learnt from the success or failure of previous tall building designs. Since building monitoring is absolutely imperative for any sustainability certificate, it would be appropriate for energy designers, auditors and sociologists to report on findings derived from monitorings, user satisfaction surveys and analyses of socio-spatial impacts of tall buildings.
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