Urban Sprawl Going Upwards

River Pines, Pollution, City, Sewer

Residents of the Western Hemisphere may not know it, but we are living in the age of the”megatall” skyscraper.

First came”supertall” towers, those topping 300 meters (984 ft ). But as of a little more than a decade ago, construction began on the first megatall construction, defined as one which stands 600 meters (1,969 feet) or more. The first megatall construction was Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai. Since its completion in 2009, the Burj Khalifa has been the tallest artificial structure in the world.

But it won’t continue to this designation much longer.

The tower will house a hotel, offices and residential apartments, as well as a 157th-floor observation deck.

The Kingdom Tower will take beyond the Burj Khalifa and other present megatall structures, including the 2,073-foot Shanghai Tower, Saudi Arabia’s present 1,971-foot Abraj Al-Bait and the 1,965-foot Ping An International Finance Centre in Shenzhen, China, largely complete and slated to be completed next year. New York’s supertall One World Trade Center, attaining a patriotic 1,776 ft, is the only building in the Western Hemisphere to create the top 10 list, and it may soon find itself pushed out completely.

Even the Jeddah Tower might not have long to enjoy its place on top. While there is absolutely no definite site yet devoted to the project, it is another indication of the appetite to push architecture ever upward.

Some tall and supertall skyscrapers are purely residential, particularly in america. Advances in technology and engineering, in addition to increased population pressure in metropolitan areas, make residing dozens of stories up a more attractive prospect than it once was. But among the megatall structures which are cropping up around the world, dedicating an entire tower to purely residential use is infrequent.

Instead, many of these megatall buildings include residential and business portions, together with hotels, restaurants and an assortment of in-house amenities. In effect, they’re the most obvious evidence that cities today are as apt to sprawl upward as outward. In size and in purpose, they are effectively several skyscrapers in one.

Mixed-use towers offer some economies of scale. The restaurant where workers grab lunch on Tuesday will happily serve brunch to residents and resort guests on Sunday. The stores, gardens and health services offered to residents will, in effect, make the tower a comparatively self-contained community. The climate control system will have the ability to draw cooler, cleaner air from the tales far above street level, saving on heating and filtration prices. And infrastructure such as a water mains and electricity will obviously be merged.

For some residents, too, there might be individual savings. Visitors seeing friends or family will have the ability to stay in hotel rooms just a few floors away.

Much as ocean liners have sometimes been described as”floating cities,” multiuse towers such as the one underway in Jeddah may represent”climbing cities.” As such, they will need redundancies and safeguards for electricity, sanitation and emergency services. Some of these can simply be a matter of planning ahead; others may require innovative solutions.

For example, how can you fight a fire on the 70th floor of a building? In Dubai, the proposal is to groom firefighters with”jetpacks,” powered by helicopter blades rather than streams of gas, but still meant to allow individual first responders to rescue stranded civilians. While New Yorkers should not expect to see that the FDNY flying around One World Trade Center’s upper levels any time soon, futuristic skyscrapers already demand unusual solutions to unique issues.

Contemporary design also allows these towers to be built with increasing efficiency of materials. Engineering techniques such as a weight-bearing”exoskeleton” on the outside of tall buildings and the availability of stronger steel and concrete mean that builders can execute architects’ designs while keeping costs manageable and buildings safe for the folks who will live, work and relax in them once they are complete.

Such structures are either prohibited outright or require zoning variances obstructed by people who would may not be directly affected in any way, but dislike the concept of such a job in their backyard on principle.

And by international standards, the United States is fairly adaptable where building permissions are involved. It’s harder to imagine supertall, mixed-use skyscrapers gaining a foothold in Berlin or Milan, let alone Paris, where the statement of a 590-foot tall combination hotel and office building generated hand-wringing and outcry just weeks ago.

In some ways, supertowers may offer what urban living advocates have championed for years. They reduce the demand for automobiles and other transportation, allow communities to deploy resources more efficiently and provide improved amenities through economies of scale.

On the other hand, these towers stand in opposition to calls for “human scale” development. Some urban planners have argued that focusing too much on efficiency can cause isolating and even dangerous results for individuals. To stay viable, mixed-use towers will most likely need common spaces such as gardens, courtyards or gallerias, as well as the proposed restaurants and stores that will make life social, not simply efficient, for the people who live and work in such places.

While megatall skyscrapers pose a variety of challenges, more nations are tackling these problems all of the time. Towers like the one climbing in Jeddah are one vision of the future, and one which is coming first in the international East.

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