Sustainable Designers Turn to Skyscrapers

Earlier this year, Ewa Gromadzka, a renowned sustainability consultant, released what is quickly becoming known as the definitive outlook on Green Skyscrapers in conjunction with the Copenhagen School of Design and Technology. In his paper, Green Skyscrapers: Crucial Transformation in the Construction Industry and the Paradigm of Thought of the XXI Century, Gromadzka claims that sustainable skyscrapers must dominate downtown areas of major cities to protect the environment.

According to the report, the construction industry “has an enormous impact on the environment,” but if construction is performed thoughtfully and sustainably, it could have a measurable impact on the current degradation of the environment. His idea to look further into green skyscrapers came about while he was viewing a documentary about the LEED Platinum skyscraper erected at One Bryant Park in New York City.

The documentary led Gromadzka to acquire an internship in Manhattan with a company that manages green buildings, Silverstein Properties Incorporation (SPI), which is the same firm that is developing what will be the largest sustainable-building complex in the U.S.: Ground Zero.

After spending some time learning about the design and construction of green skyscrapers, Gromadzka set about to educate the public on the necessity of sustainable architecture, and he began by define several important terms, including green design, skyscrapers and green skyscrapers, as an indispensable first step.

The definition of skyscrapers in the report is not about exact specifications and measurements but rather takes into consideration four general principles:

  1. The building has a small footprint in relation to its total upward space.
  2. The building has a tall façade.
  3. The building has a small roof area in comparison to the total area of external walls.
  4. The building includes specialized engineering systems to allow for its height.

Green skyscrapers in the report are defined as high-rise buildings that are designed to have a minimal impact on the environment, which includes energy and water conservation and a healthy indoor environment that released minimal pollution. These skyscrapers may include several specialty types, such as the following:

  • Bioclimatic skyscrapers take advantage of the local climate for comfort control.
  • Ecological skyscrapers include bio-integrated systems to imitate processes found in nature.

After defining these three terms, Gromadzka goes into the history of green design and presents several examples, including 7 WTC (adjacent to Ground Zero), the Bahrain World Trade Center (located in Manama, Bahrain) and the Strata Tower in London.

The report then talks about LEED certification, which is the most widely used in the U.S. and another voluntary certification called the Building Research Establishment Environment Assessment Method (BREEAM), which was established in 1990 in the U.K.

As Gromadzka delves into the theories of green design, the environmental context of skyscrapers, energy and materials management, operational systems, the paper becomes very detailed and complex. However, it ends with the environmental and economic benefits of green skyscrapers and legislative challenges.

Green Skyscrapers is an informative and thought provoking research paper for anyone interested in green design, sustainable architecture and environmentally sound construction, and it is a must-read for those in any related industry.

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