Major cities are dynamic, constantly growing and transforming to fit the changing needs of their residents. The London of 2012 is a far cry from the London of 1902, 1952, or even 1992. As the world’s population continues to swell – reaching 7 billion worldwide in 2011 – people all over the world have begun shifting to the cities. London is no exception: the city’s population is expected to increase by 10 percent from 2012 to 2013. More people in the same space means real estate values are shooting up (up 20.3 percent from last year). Developers and city planners wonder: how best to accommodate these new residents? The answer is simple: go vertical.
-Expanding vertically allows developers to pack more use into less space, minimizing the cost of land while maximizing income.
-Towers’ versatility of function allows investors to pursue a variety of business ventures in the same space. This protects against loss by providing a number of viable income options: if the apartment units aren’t drawing in residents, for instance, the office spaces or shops are being rented.
London’s growing population is due in large part to a steady immigration of single adults and childless couples, the target demographic for tower living. The tower lifestyle is ideal for young people who enjoy a fast-paced urban way of life:
-Tower living provides a higher level of security than private homes, a necessity in the atmosphere of growing crime that comes with higher urban populations. Maintenance tasks are taken care of by the building management, and amenities like swimming pools, fitness centers, and resident lounge areas provide entertainment and comfort.
-Skyscrapers provide living space in the city center, close to public transportation or in commercial districts. Residents are able to live and work within easy reach of cultural and commercial venues such as theatres, fashion hubs, restaurants and night clubs.
High-rise apartment complexes like Ontario Point (14 stories) and The Heron (36 stories) have already made their mark on the London skyline. Several new skyscrapers are due for completion over the next two years, such as The Tower, a 49-story residential tower overlooking the Thames at Vauxhall; Manhattan Loft Gardens, which rises 42 stories above Stratford; and the 27-story high Altitude apartment complex. Together, these towers hold more than 1100 flats, and each tower boasts its own special features like rooftop gardens and private clubs.
Despite the obvious benefits of vertical expansion, there is a downside to tower building:
-Some architects argue that skyscrapers are merely an eyesore. Developers have sought to improve the aesthetic appeal of towers by grouping them in clusters and outfitting them with public-access viewing galleries. The Mayor’s London Plan provides guidelines for tower construction, requiring towers to be well integrated into their surroundings and conform to high ecological and construction standards.
-While heating and cooling usage is roughly the same in low-rise and high-rise buildings, taller towers consume 10-15 percent more energy due to high elevator usage. New advancements in elevator technology, however, have reduced energy use. Some “green” developers, for instance, have installed software that calculates the most efficient path for the elevator to take based on the respective destinations of its passengers, the number of passengers onboard, and the floors where others are waiting to board.
-Location is key to keeping energy costs down. Towers should be situated in areas that provide easy access to public transportation and pedestrian footpaths, to minimize residents’ car use. For this reason, skyscrapers fare best when placed closer to the center of the city, in proximity to transportation centers and commercial hubs.
Despite their drawbacks, skyscrapers are the inevitable and practical next step in expanding cities like London and outfitting them for a changing demographic.
Alex Wayne is a full-time blogger who enjoys writing about urban life, proper development and energy efficiency. He works with websites like MTBmechanical.com to translate the knowledge and experience of home improvement and property experts into insightful blog posts and articles for homeowners who want to work smarter, not harder.