Vertical cities: The future of urban development

[] We look at how future urban centres will increasingly depend on taller buildings and how transportation infrastructure will need to evolve, to make such cities a success

is the trend worldwide, people automatically gravitate towards cities, because of the opportunities and potential it holds. This puts immense pressures on cities, to provide for housing and other needs of the people within it. It is impossible for a city to have indefinite horizontal growth. To meet the needs of a rising population, the only viable solution, is for buildings to grow vertically.

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Vertical development: A solution to urban congestion

High-rise buildings are the most practical solution, for any developing city that faces land scarcity. Rising population, shrinking space and a desire to remain close to the main city, have led to the idea of multi-storeyed buildings. Some of the tallest buildings in the world are in the cities of Dubai, Shanghai, New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Chicago. All the cities are paving the way for tall buildings, showcasing that such structures can be successful and India too is following suit.

Today, tall structures are symbols of prestige – an abode for the privileged. Going forward, however, as land becomes more scarce, the only way to accommodate people, will be to build taller. A few years from, now tall structures will become common and will offer accommodation for everyone.

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Sustainability in high-rise constructions

For a tall structure to be successful, it must not just meet the criteria of today, but must also be viable in the long run. The building must address the occupants’ core and vital needs. People tend to choose higher floors, because of the panoramic view of greenery, better access to natural light and better air quality. It is the same reason why most people retreat to mountains, forests or beaches for a break from urban life. Tall buildings should also accommodate elements necessary of social interactions like parks and playgrounds, parking, recreation centers, shopping facilities, parking, etc. Therefore, many tall buildings are likely to be of a mixed- used format. An example of how tall buildings have made people’s lives more convenient and bought elements important to them closer together, is the springing up of financial centers or central business districts.

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High-rise buildings: Main challenges

While some portion of the population happily adopts high-rise structures, some are hesitant. Some of the most common concerns in a high-rise building, according to some studies, are elevator break-downs and escape and safety when a calamity arises. Other concerns are reduced interaction with neighbours and supply of water. However, the fact is that the building quality of a tall structure is usually very high. They are built keeping in mind wind pressures, earthquake-resistance, ease of vertical accessibility, fire escape routes, etc. The issue of social interaction can be addressed with recreation and community spaces within the structure.

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Tall buildings in India

Technically speaking, a high-rise consists of 40 floors and more. A super high-rise is a building with over 75 floors and above. India has a few high-rises, typically seen in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. Currently these cities’ tall buildings have floors that are between 30 and 35 floors. Other cities like Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, as well as Ahmedabad, are also catching on to this trend.

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Vertical growth of cities and its contribution to a greener planet

Tall buildings contribute, not only in facilitating more people, whether it is for working or living but also towards the environment. It averts the loss of agricultural land, freeing up space for plantation of crops. It decreases air pollution, as commuting is vertical, making distances shorter and the transport mechanism much more efficient. This reduces the dependency on roads. Well-planned tall structures can maximise compactness, for prime efficiency.

Mixed-use developments can meet the needs of housing, employment, education, recreation, health care and other services, thereby, enhancing the efficiency of centralised labour and consumption markets, by doing away with long, wasteful and polluting commutes between home and work. By building vertically, wind and solar power can also be harnessed. Energy can be saved to support our growing population and horizontal spaces can be preserved for food production, nature and recreation.

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Transportation in tall buildings

Super tall buildings require machines that are compact and energy efficient. Elevator technology with speeds up to 12.5 metres per second, as well as single, double and super double deck elevator systems, can keep passengers moving safely and efficiently. There is a growing class of citizens that seek products and services that either save or preserve the environment. Currently, more than 6.86 billion sq ft of green building footprint and more than 5,300 buildings are registered with the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC). A lot of developers are actively looking for means to cause minimal environmental impact and this extends to elevator technologies that combine the benefits of energy efficiency and environmental responsibility, along with an emphasis on passenger safety and comfort.

In a multi-storied or a multi-building complex, traffic management and people flow becomes crucial. Safety needs to be an important factor in any elevator irrespective of the speed, capacity, etc. Apart from the bare minimal requirements, there are safety features that can be incorporated into a lift to further fortify it. In terms of security, secure access technologies have emerged, where, passengers can only access floors with the help of a valid card.

Web-based elevator management systems can also enable the building staff to monitor, control, report on and manage a full range of operation-critical functions for an elevator, from any computer with an internet connection. Seismic sensors can be installed in buildings, to detect earthquakes, with the idea of stopping the elevator at the nearest floor, during an emergency. The next step in elevator technology, is likely to be digitisation. The ability to predict a problem before it becomes an issue and give mechanics the tools to work efficiently, will help draw even more confidence in the ability of tall buildings.

With an increase in urbanisation and scarcity of land, with development being concentrated in certain areas, there is no doubt that buildings will have to grow taller. The need of the hour, hence, is for proper planning that will be able to hold up our cities and aid in future development.

 (The writer is president, Otis India)

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Category: Lifestyle

Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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