High-Rise Buildings in Context of Sustainability; Urban Metaphors of Greater Cairo, Egypt: A Case Study on Sustainability and Strategic Environmental Assessment

Mohsen M. Aboulnaga


“ Tall towers should have much greater resilience and last long enough to justify their huge cost. Materials should be fully recyclable and towers provide whole-life carbon analyses”.

Simon Sturgis, Sturgis Associates

A high-rise building has been defined by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, CTBUH (2015) as “A building whose height creates different conditions in the design, construction, and use than those that exist in common buildings of a certain region and period”. Nonetheless, CTBUH stated that there is no absolute definition of what constitutes a “tall building”. It is a building that exhibits some element of “tallness” in one or more of three categories: (a) Height Relative to Context, (b) Proportion, and (c) Tall Building Technologies. Description of the three types is shown in Box 9.1.

The question raised is “are high-rise buildings meeting sustainability principles and measures?” This has been a long-lasting debate that has been ongoing during the past two decades. With interest in sustainability worldwide, it has been gaining even more momentum during the last decade. Sustainability worldwide is becoming a necessity since demands on natural resources, mainly energy in its two forms: primary energy; and secondary energy (electrical energy) is colossally increasing due to high consumption in cities and buildings. In Egypt, sustainability is increasingly becoming a necessity since energy is consumed colossally in all sectors, especially in the light of production capacity, particularly at peak times, i.e. summer months (June-September) where such high demands cannot be met. Nevertheless, planning for future demands has been recently manifested in the stake of electricity

M.M. Aboulnaga (*)

Sustainable Built Environment, Department of Architectural Engineering—Environmental Design Division, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it ; This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017 A. Sayigh (ed.), Sustainable High Rise Buildings in Urban Zones, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-17756-4_9

Box 9.1 Tall building definitions according to Council of Tall Buildings & Urban Habitat, CTBUH (2015)

Height relative to

context Proportion Tall building technologies

It is not just about A tall building is not just If a building contains technologies

height, but about about height but also which may be attributed as being a

the context in which about proportion. There product of “tall” (e.g. specific vertical

it exists, meaning are numerous buildings transport technologies, structural

that a 14-storey that are not particularly wind bracing as a product of height,

building may not be high, but are slender etc.), then this building can be

considered a tall enough to give the classified as a tall building. Although

building in a appearance of a tall number of floors is a poor indicator

high-rise city such building, especially of defining a tall building due to the

as Chicago or Hong against low urban changing floor to floor height

Kong, whereas in a backgrounds. There are between differing buildings and

provincial European numerous big/large functions (e.g. office versus

city or a suburb it footprint buildings that residential usage), a building of

may be distinctly are quite tall but their perhaps 14 or more stories—or more

taller than the urban size/floor area rules them than 50 m (165 ft) in height—could

norm out as being classed as a perhaps be used as a threshold for

tall building considering it a “tall building”

generation contracts signed during the international conference of economic development “Egypt the Future” with investments exceeding USD15 billion; where Siemens’ share is worth ten billion (Egypt the Future 2015). This would give more hope that the new capital (North-east of Cairo) to be built with many high-rise buildings and skyscrapers to fulfil the requirements in terms of embodied energy[1] and operational energy for these tall buildings. Simply defined, embodied energy is “the energy requirement to construct and maintain the premises” (http://www.etool- global.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Embodied-Energy-Paper-Richard- Haynes.pdf/).

Research indicates that it is indisputably true that high-rise buildings have advantages and disadvantages. Some residents who dwell in high-rise building’s apartments revealed that they are lonely and unhappy while others state that it is advantageous to stay in high-rise apartments (Adalberth et al. 2001). In fact, it has been recognised that due to the increased demand of high-rise towers and decreased availability of space, tall buildings are now rapidly increasing especially in large cities around the world (Fig. 9.1). High-rise buildings unquestionably satisfy the drastic demand of house rentals in cities to the extent that they are excellent places for short stay in many cases. Economically speaking, prices of flats are less com- 1

Cities worldwide that have a large number of high-rise buildings. Source

Fig. 9.1 Cities worldwide that have a large number of high-rise buildings. Source: http://www. emporis.com/statistics/worlds-tallest-buildings

pared to individual houses in cities (http://www.essayforum.com/writing-3/ advantages-disadvantages-high-rise-apartments-48298/).

In today’s world, there are many duties for architects, engineers, and urban planners to perform in energy efficiency, especially in tall buildings. Skyscrapers are vital in modern cities since these towers consume a great deal of energy, but nevertheless renewable energy can be an integral part of these skyscrapers and could significantly influence energy consumption patterns in these buildings and assist in reducing it. This has been manifested in many recent buildings in the Gulf, mainly in Dubai-UAE and Bahrain, e.g. Buij Khalifa and DIFC tower (designed by SOM & Atkins Overseas) and the World Trade Center in Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain (Lotfabadi 2015). Energy plays a key role in socio-economic development worldwide, particularly in Egypt. Many studies have emphasised the role of tall buildings to potentially diminish energy consumption. Lotfabadi, P. examined high-rise buildings and their environmental factors and illustrated the effects of some environmental factors, such as air pressure and density, wind speed, and other similar factors in high-rise buildings, from architects and ordinary people’s point of view. She also compared these attitudes with each other in the case study (Lotfabadi 2015). Buildings, particularly high-rise buildings, worldwide use a huge amount of generated energy. Tall buildings which are considered an inevitable part of the community can meaningfully contribute to the reduction of energy consumption by using renewable energy and innovative ideas and solutions in designing these buildings.

Continents with high-rise buildings/skyscrapers. Source

Fig. 9.2 Continents with high-rise buildings/skyscrapers. Source: http://www.emporis.com/statis- tics/most-skyscrapers

In contrast, research results have indicated that sustainable skyscrapers can be energy efficient and are closely related to their site and environment (Lotfabadi 2014).

According to Oral Buyukozturk, high-rise buildings have been demanded as a result of economic growth and increased demand for office space worldwide (Buyukozturk 2004). Figure 9.2 exhibits the number of high-rise buildings and percentage in six continents (Asia, North America, Europe, South America, Oceania, and Africa). By looking at skyscrapers by region, it is clear that Asia and North America have 64 % of the total number followed by Europe 18 %. In terms of the distribution of tall buildings worldwide, the top five cities with the largest number of high-rise buildings are located in Miami—North America, Brazil—South America, Spain—Europe, and Sydney Australia (Top 25 Nations with High Rise Building in the World 2015; EMPORIS 2015; The Top 5 Cities with the Most High- Rise Buildings/Population 2015). By comparing these cities, it is clear that high- rises in Sydney and Miami Beach city house the largest number of inhabitants However, the top 25 cities with skyscrapers are illustrated in Fig. 9.3, where Hong Kong, is the most crowded city in the world, has the highest number of skyscrapers as shown in Fig. 9.4 (http://www.emporis.com/statistics/most-skyscrapers; http:// list25.com/25-cities-in-the-world-with-the-most-skyscrapers/5/; http://en.egypt. travel/attraction/index/cairo-tower/).

  • [1] Embodied energy in residential buildings represents between 30 and 100 % of total life cycleenergy consumption [new Ref—Saving the Environment Downsizing buildings in Japan http://youtu.be/HK1sHpBnhLA. Accessed 13 May 2015].
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