Skyscraper activity has been particularly high this year in terms of project proposals, completions and construction breaking ground.
Architects have also been pushing height boundaries to deliver tall buildings that meet the expectations and design aesthetics of their urban locations.
The year 2013 saw One World Trade Centre - the replacement for the original twin towers - crowned the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere while Broad Sustainable Building in China began the foundations for its ambitious prefabricated skyscraper, Sky City, among countless other projects.
Along with the rise of vertical gardens, new structural aesthetics and cities contending to house the tallest skyscraper, skyscraper activity is expected to rise in 2014 according to the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).
The CTBUH confidently forecasts that approximately 75 skyscrapers stretching 200 metres or taller will be completed by the close of 2013 with at least 100 buildings over 200 metres tall to be completed in 2014.
CTBUH editor Daniel Safarik offered predictions when it comes to skyscraper construction in the year ahead.
The newest trend for skyscrapers are slender structures that offer dizzying heights and boutique living, as demonstrated in dense cities including New York, Hong Kong and Mumbai.
“The advancement in high-strength concrete technology, combined with land scarcity and plenty of billionaires wiling to spend a great deal of money for single-or double floor unity high in the sky has made this a new reality,” said Safarik.
One of the latest projects to be approved is a residential skyscraper owned by JDS Development, with architecture commissioned to SHoP, at 111 West 57th Street in New York City. While the tower will rise 411 metres, it is only approximately 13 metres wide. This gives it a width-to-height ratio of approximately 1:30, which could make it one of the skinniest residential towers in the world.
Rafael Vinoly’s 432 Park Avenue, currently under construction in Manhattan, will also leave a minimal footprint spanning only 8,250 square feet.
Safarik added that building forms could also see a shift in 2014.
“Residential floor plates are more flexible than office floor plates, so in some ways there is more freedom to manipulate the form,” he said.
Prefabrication will continue to challenge traditional building techniques, rapidly increasing construction speed in 2014.
“By some counts it has been slowly evolving over many years,” Safarik said, referring to the suburb of Levittown and surrounding suburbs in Long Island, New York, which deployed prefabrication construction methods for their housing during World War II.
London’s Ledenhall Building, due for completion early next year, will make use of prefabrication. The building, nicknamed The Cheese Grater for its angled aesthetic, will rise 224 metres and is expected to rise seven storeys per month because “85% of the building’s construction value will consist of prefabricated and off-site construction elements.”
Broad Sustainability Group’s Sky City building will push the limits of prefabrication. The project will be 838 metres tall, 10 metres taller than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is currently the tallest building in the world.
“It they hold to their prediction (and this is a big “if”), then this would be the most dramatic demonstration of prefab’s potential in history,” said Safarik. “On the other hand, they have their own record to beat – Broad Group has already constructed numerous prefab towers with lighting speed."
With 80 per cent of those living in developed areas living in cities and population growth set to rapidly rise, 2014 will see residential projects reign, along with a continuing trend toward mixed-use buildings.
“The residential trend is greatest in the most populous and rapidly urbanising countries,” said Safarik. “For example, in India, there are about 75 buildings of 200 meters or greater, that are either under construction, seriously proposed, or completed. Out of these, only three are office-only; four are mixed-use.”
Mixed-use projects offer a multitude of benefits not just for residents but for building owners as well, as they create a diverse flow of investment and income opportunities.
Safarik also predicted that in 2014, “two thirds of (the skyscrapers) will be in China, where the boom is as strong as ever.”
He acknowledged that previous economies that have boasted strong skyscraper activity have traditionally collapsed shortly thereafter, but he noted that in China, each of the buildings is at least partially state-financed.
The CTBUH has also cited Mumbai as a leader in skyscraper activity. The Middle East as a whole is expected to continue its skyscraper boom in cities including Abu Dhabi, Doha, Kuwait, Riyadh and Jeddah.
In 2014, Jeddah will see construction continue on the highly-anticipated Kingdom Tower, which is set to be rise one kilometre.
“More possibilities include Baku, Azerbaijan; Astana, Kazakhstan; Jakarta, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur,” said Safarik. “There have been many supertall proposals for Seoul and Busan in Korea, but only a few are actually going forward at the present time.”
Melbourne has been recognised as having the highest skyscraper activity among Australian capital cities. According to the CTBUH database, there are 25 buildings under construction or proposed over 200 metres, of which 13 are in Melbourne. Next year is expected to see the completion of Infinity Tower in Brisbane which will rise 214 metres.
Skyscrapers in 2013 have demonstrated some wonderful environmental credentials including buildings featuring smart skins, wrapped in green foliage, and advanced water and waste systems. The industry is expected to begin exploring self-sustaining architecture, also known as triple net zero; buildings that produce almost zero energy, zero emissions and zero waste.
“All of the early attempts at 'net zero' skyscrapers have fallen short of that goal, but we have seen attempts to harness the prevailing natural conditions as well as active technology to generate a substantial portion of their required energy,” said Safarik. “Part of the issue is that, even if a tall building could generate all of its own energy, it is still a massive structure that contains a great deal of embodied energy in its creation.”
Currently, the 309-metre Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou City, China by SOM is believed to be the world’s most energy-efficient skyscraper, earning that distinction by using “a series of integrated sustainable and engineering elements, including solar panels, double skin curtain wall, chilled ceiling system, under floor ventilation air and daylight harvesting.”
“So there are many fronts on which to fight this war, and it’s far from over,” Safarik said regarding skyscrapers looking for a net-zero effect.
The global awareness surrounding the potential and viability of wooden skyscrapers offers another sustainable option. Wooden skyscrapers were a hot topic throughout 2013, and their possibilities were further highlighted by Vancouver architect Michael Green.
Green wants to see wooden skyscrapers engineered to stand 30 storeys or more in height using an available and flexible system that applies mass timer panels to a building.
In British Columbia, Canada, the Wood Innovation and Design Centre has partnered with Green and his firm, Michael Green Architecture, to develop a 27.5-metre building wooden building and in June, a 34-storey wooden skyscraper was proposed for Stockholm.
The future looks bright for skyscrapers across the globe as they become more than mere status symbols. The CTBUH anticipates that 2014 will see more purpose-built skyscrapers shaping skylines, housing the growing population and delivering an urban community without eroding the environment.