Throughout industrial history, the most memorable structures have been forged of powerful construction steel, defying gravity, with its highest point peeking through the clouds. Yet as trends in architecture transform, “grandeur” won’t be what designers aim to achieve. In a world of tall buildings, innovators will instead be vying for a new title: the most efficient.
Most developed countries are in the midst of an unprecedented boom in tall buildings. We’ve come a long way since the world’s first steel skyscraper was constructed. In 2004, Manhattan – the queen of the concrete jungle – was home to 28 skyscrapers scaling 700 feet or taller. In the 14 years since, an additional 13 super structures have been built and a further 15 are under construction.
The problem is, the burden on the environment created by using skyscrapers can be difficult to overcome. Powering elevators, lights and computers in a commercial or residential building requires significant energy consumption, and the heat and waste generated adds more pressure to the immediate area. With building codes and environmental regulations to consider, architects and engineers will be required to develop creative, innovative solutions to counteract and improve on these issues.
There are number of newly constructed buildings that are shining examples of the necessary steps architects must take to produce energy efficient buildings. One of those is the Shanghai Tower in China. It’s the second tallest in the world and boasts the best energy rating, due to its unique shape and design which reduces wind load. This design feat allowed the construction team to save 20,000 metric tons of steel reinforcement. Along with its modern shape, the building relies on renewable energy, significantly reducing emissions. This is a massive win for China, whose major cities have been heavily polluted for many decades.
Elevators: the real challenge of changing skyscrapers
The first challenge of skyscraper design begins with the elevator, which hasn’t evolved in over 100 years. Steel cords can only carry so much weight before the load becomes unbearable and when travelling up to 100 floors at a time, the elevators can only move so fast.
With buildings being constrained by the forms of mobility available, a German company, ThyssenKrupp, has come up with a solution: Magnets. Yes, magnets. Their elevator design boasts the ability to have multiple cabins in one shaft, allowing them to circulate the building and move horizontally.
An in-depth study was commissioned by Samsung in 2016 and showed a vibrant picture of the earth’s cities 100 years from now. According to their predictions, there will be “hyper-tall skyscrapers, underwater bubble cities, personal home medical pods and civilian colonies on the Moon.”
Not only will there be super skyscrapers, but we’ll have dug “Earth Scrapers”, buildings that tunnel 25 stories deep. Our underwater cities will use the water itself to generate breathable atmosphere and produce hydrogen fuel in the process, while 3D printing will be the norm for building houses and furniture.
Looking towards the future, skyscrapers are poised to become more than just “tall buildings.” They’ll be integrated with smart technology, multifunctional and won’t necessarily look like the typical skyscraper we’ve come to know.
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