Thursday, April 9, 2020
sustainable skyscraper
January 12, 2020

In the supertall era, is the sustainable skyscraper a myth?

The illustrative and alliterative Tall Trends of 2019, the latest look at the global state of tall towers by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), suggests that the age of super-tall towers and expanding skylines is just beginning.

In 2019, 26 supertalls, which the organization defined as buildings measuring 300 meters (984 feet) or taller, were completed, besting the previous record of 18 set in 2018. An additional 100 skyscrapers between 200 meters (656 feet) and 300 meters or more completed last year, a slight dip from the previous year, when 146 opened, but part of the decade-long trend of more and more such buildings taking shape in more and more corners of the globe. In 2020, the organization estimates between 115 and 145 200-meter-plus towers will finish, 17 to 30 of which will be supertalls.

This new generation of towers, which represent the utilization of cutting-edge technologies, showcase great feats of engineering. But in a world slowly responding to climate change, can this type of construction, which requires massive amounts of energy and materials, ever approach sustainability?

The answer, according Daniel Safarik, editor at the CTBUH, is complicated, mostly because of a lack of data. Many designers, construction firms, and building owners don’t share information about materials inputs, or the performance of these towers over time. The CTBUH is interested in the answer, Safarik says, and helps to conduct sustainability research. But part of being more sustainable is changing not just what we know about these buildings, but the way the industry and culture evaluate, and elevate, skyscrapers.

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