High-Rise Heaven – Asking more from our towers

Credit: UN Studio
Melbourne is facing ever increasing pressure to deliver more housing in areas with high land values. With a policy framework intent on squeezing the most out of these areas, the result is to build high. Love them or loathe them, it seems the tower will become a permanent fixture on Melbourne’s horizon. The focus for most designers and planners has been on how it looks or whether it contributes enough to the public realm.

High-rise buildings use around 16% of the world’s energy. They can be expensive to run and inefficient in their use of space. Nearly a third of the height of some skyscraper serves no apparent functional purpose.

Solar panel manufacturers Hanwha has recently emblazoned the facades of its 29-storey, 1980s headquarters in Seoul with hundreds of solar panels to harvest energy and help cool interiors. The remodelling, undertaken by UN Studio, also includes new high-performance, energy saving windows.

The simple argument that, by their very nature high-rise forms are sustainable is open to debate. Should Melbourne’s planners be demanding more from our towers? Retrofitting, or simply fitting, high-rise buildings with sustainable design features can reduce the energy consumption of the building making a positive contribution in the battle against climate change. It can even contribute positively to the urban environment.

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