Time to Rethink the Skyscraper

The climate crisis has us questioning where people live, work, and how they get between the two. We’ve known for decades that low density sub-urban living is horrible for the environment (and people’s mental health) because it detaches people from each other due to car-based transportation. Many have argued that skyscrapers are the needed alternative because high density living is good. Architects Declare have released a letter questioning this reasoning, they argue that six stories is the ideal height for people and for the planet. A city of six story buildings is good density, the best example being Paris.

The unavoidable fact is that, in terms of resource efficiency, the embodied carbon in their construction and energy consumption in use, skyscrapers are an absurdity. The amount of steel required to resist high windspeeds, the energy required to pump water hundreds of metres above ground and the amount of floorspace taken up by lifts and services make them one of the most inefficient building types in a modern metropolis. It could also be argued that skyscrapers further detach us from any meaningful relationship with the natural world. Above about ten storeys, balconies don’t work because it is simply too windy, so high-rise apartments are hermetically sealed – as isolated from nature as possible.

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