Our Tall Buildings Expert Panel discussed innovative and sustainable approaches for delivering tall buildings in London, Ender Ozkan of RWDI reports.
It has been great to see a collective movement in the built environment community towards sustainable design and operation of our building stock in London. While low-rise dense schemes can be more sustainable than taller buildings, opportunities to create dense low-rise schemes in central London can be limited, meaning that there will continue to be demand for high-quality sustainably-designed tall buildings in London.
This set the stage in the second meeting of the Expert Panel on Tall Buildings to discuss innovative and sustainable approaches for delivering tall buildings in London. This is a topic that is very close to the hearts of all panel members and created very lively discussion and debate.
Members reviewed a short presentation about emerging technologies in tall building design, categorized into planning and early optimisation tools, embodied carbon reduction methods, and tools to limit operational carbon of tall buildings. While the planning and early design stages are critically important for setting ambitious sustainable design approaches, members agreed that this needed to be supported by robust planning requirements. The new London Plan places significant onus on local boroughs to drive the industry towards a more sustainable delivery approach, but many local authorities in London may not be adequately funded and resourced to lead the way in sustainable design of tall buildings. There needs to be a clear support mechanism in place for boroughs to set innovative ambitious goals for their boroughs, possibly supplemented by London-wide or national guidelines.
With respect to embodied carbon, members agreed that tall buildings need to be designed more rigorously compared to other building types, with adaptability, long-lifetime and the capability to easily re-use building components at the end of life being a common requirement on all tall building projects. Performance based design methods also have a big role in minimising embodied carbon, whereby the structural and mechanical components of a building are designed to meet sustainable performance objectives, instead of using conservative codified approaches.
On operational carbon minimisation, several technology firms are developing high density sensor networks that allow the buildings to adapt to real-time data on user needs and external climate factors. While some of the recently designed office buildings incorporate some of these high-end technologies, there is a need to improve the industry uptake of such innovative operational carbon reduction technologies, ideally from the outset of a building design process for all types of tall buildings.
Finally, members discussed the need to standardize the technical methodologies used to assess the sustainability of tall buildings, without limiting innovation or being overly prescriptive on how sustainability targets should be met. The Panel reviewed a number of guidelines and sustainability quantification methods published by various bodies, and while the drive to create such publications is fantastic for the industry, having a consistent approach in all London boroughs would help create economies of scale needed for faster delivery of sustainable buildings. The Tall Buildings Expert Panel will liaise with the Net Zero Expert Panel to discuss how NLA can influence the industry for creating innovative and consistent approaches for the design of sustainable buildings across London and the UK.