Vertical Urbanism and Sustainability – Opportunities and Challenges

Session: D: Vertical Sustainability: Design and Engineering for the Environment

Stefanie WeidnerProject image

Stefanie Weidner
Director Sustainability Strategies, Werner Sobek AG

Building high-rises is particularly important in dense urban areas where land is a limited and highly valued resource. In this context, tall buildings offer a viable solution, and not only from an economic perspective. Yet, climate change forces planners to designers the impact of their buildings more closely and on a broader scale. Compared to mid-rise buildings, high-rise structures require substantially more resources per square meter and emit more greenhouse gases during production. Moreover, their floor area efficiency is generally not as good as that of lower-rise buildings. On an urban planning scale, high-rises require very sensitive handling in terms of integration into the urban context. Thus, the implementation of high-rise structures into an urban environment needs to follow some basic principles. Additionally, the typology itself needs to be optimized.

For an ideal structural system of a building, resource consumption must be addressed regarding each component of a building throughout the whole planning process. A primary focus should be on the floor slabs, which are responsible for up to 60 percent of a building’s mass and embodied emissions. Secondly, the overall choice of material and construction methods need to be taken into consideration. Even though high-rises are rarely demolished, it is even more important to consider the life cycles of different building components and plan their implementation accordingly. The presenters sketch, from a sustainability point of view, the ideal high-rise in an urban environment in Central Europe and discuss both the challenges and opportunities of building high. Furthermore, potential solutions for emission and resource consumption reduction are introduced.