6 sustainable design practices for London’s future skyline

London city skyline

Tall buildings form the makeup of The City of London. It is interesting to observe the rate at which skyscrapers are being built. Luxury offices and commercial skyscrapers predominantly make up The City of London. Outer London consists mainly of residences.

 The restrictive spatial nature of The City of London means a few problems arise:

1. The impact of wind on the ground floor level of tall structures feels like walking through a mini-tornado. If you have ever walked through the city during lunch time on a weekday, fast winds might blow your lunch away!

2. Noisy streets come from traffic congestion, construction, tourists, people going for meetings, roadworks.

3. The heat island effect causes overheating meaning a greater CO2 emission.

4. London is a city where buildings are air-tight during winter.  This is great, you don’t want to freeze, but the summer it’s not so good.

5. There is a lack of public spaces, gardens which hamper community environments

What we have observed as good practice and to encourage other AEC professionals to incorporate in their work is (with some examples):

1.Mixed Use strategy

  • One Blackfriars by SimpsonHaugh and Partners is a mixed -use 50-storey tower. To tackle the lack of community and public spaces, it mixes the use within the vertical building. There is a mix of retail, residential, hotel and public spaces. Within one building you have a different mix of people and amenities. This means you will have a richer variety of experiences throughout the day, week or year. Mixed-use gets more public interaction, greater social sustainability and longevity.
One Blackfriars Building

2. Green living wall strategy

  • The 50 Fenchurch street by Eric Parry is an impressive building. It is a 36-storey office building that is commercial. What is fantastic about this building  is its full height living green wall. This is much needed in the high CO2 emitting London. We engage in a holistic natural environment integrated in our buildings. The green walls help purify the air and reduce our carbon footprint.

3. Publicize high level floors

  • 22 Bishopsgate by PLP architecture makes the roof top accessible for public use. The public can actually come and use it. When people see towers and skyscrapers, it gives the impression that they don’t have access to these buildings. Thi is not true.

4. Introduce transparency

  • One Bishopsgate Plaza by MSMR. You can see the animation of the ground floor of vertical buildings. There are retail shops, cafes and water features that bring life to those spaces. Opening up our skyscrapers for social interaction is to the benefit of the city. London is an open attraction for people from all walks of life but still has the possibility to do business.

5. Modular construction building

  • 101 George street by HTA Architects is a great example of modular construction building. It was delivered in 24 months. Up until a few year ago, The AEC industry was skeptical of modular design for residential when looking at tall and luxury architecture. This is a good step in how we can use  this new modern method of construction. This is precision manufacturing of modular construction within architecture. Assembly off site and putting it together on site.

6. Design with nature

  • 52 Lime Street by KPF architects. From an aesthetic perspective, I like this building. The tapered skyscraper not only fulfills this function but it is also a combatant against wind loads. When the wind hits the building at its pinnacle and falls towards the ground, it slows down acceleration of wind. Looking for ways in which we work with the local environment and weathering, we can create architecture that is stunning, environmentally respectful and safe for our habitation.

On our own projects, Simone de Gale incorporates these design principles too.

  • The tapered skyscraper of 200 luxury apartments in Croatia. We use the same methods KPF used in their design. We bring down the wind using modular construction through the repeated tiered floor pattern and off-site modular production and on-site ease of assembly.
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  • Our Tbilisi, Georgia masterplan which consists of residential & commercial development as well as a luxury park. There is greenery incorporated throughout the development where we bring the environment in the building.
Urban masterplan with residential blocks
  • For our 2nd masterplan in Tbilisi, it consists of retail and commercial developments, we staggered the towers. One building separated into 4 parts. This way wind dissipates is good practice and we avoid intense vortexes.

In summary:

  • Consider a mixed use building approach as a key environmental and social quality for a holistic experience. It is paramount to think of the surrounding streets and the buildings integration with the ground floor for greater transparency. Design with nature and don’t ignore innovate modular construction practices.
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