From the use of solar panels and energy-efficient glass, to combining design with forestry, sustainable architecture is reaching new heights in Asia.
High-rise towers have long been common in the region. But in recent years, eco-friendly skyscrapers have been gaining traction, noticeably in China, as governments tackle rapid urbanization and its impact on the environment, says Eric Lee, head of JLL’s Greater China Property and Asset Management business.
“While tall structures typically served as landmarks, they are also increasingly used to showcase businesses’ corporate environmental responsibility,” Lee says.
“Many project owners and developers seek green accreditations such as LEED (Leaders in Energy and Environmental Design) in order to attract businesses and talent who have sustainability goals,” he says.
Another primary driver of the trend is cost reduction. Tall buildings with sustainability features use less energy and water, helping businesses to save on operating costs.
Yet sustainable designs aren’t just doing their part for the planet. Occupiers are increasingly demanding a green working environment, according to Daniel Safarik, an editor at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) and JLL.
“Many people find skyscrapers to be somewhat cold and alienating, but as cities densify and grow, the collision course is set – sustainable design, the concentration of talent, and the high-rise are going to continue to meet,” Safarik says.
Here, Real Views looks at some of the region’s skyscrapers that are pushing the green agenda.
In the heart of Singapore’s central business district, the Oasia Hotel Downtown is covered in 21 species of verdant climbers and flowers, and was conceived as a haven for birds and animals, according to architect WOHA. It has an overall Green Plot Ratio of 1,100 percent, which means there is 10 times as much greenery growing on a building than could have been on the same plot of unbuilt land. The tower also features open-sided gardens, so there is no need for mechanical ventilation in the hotel's 314 rooms and 100 office units.
Stefano Boeri Architects designed the Nanjing Green Towers as a vertical forest. The mixed-use project in Nanjing Pukou District was developed by the state-owned National Investment Group, and consists of two towers characterised by their green tanks and balconies. Due to be finished this year, the towers will be a breath of fresh air: it is claimed they will absorb around 25 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, and produce about 60 kilograms of oxygen per day.
Image credit: Stefano Boeri Architetti
The Shanghai Tower boasts a total of 43 different sustainable technologies, including renewable energy sources and extensive landscaping to help cool the building. These technologies have allowed the structure to reduce its total energy consumption by 21 percent and slash its carbon footprint by an estimated 37,000 metric tonnes each year. These achievements have earned the supertall both the American LEED Gold certification and China’s three-star Green Building award.
The 599-meter high Ping An IFC is the tallest building in South China. The energy costs to run the skyscraper are 46 percent lower compared with a conventionally constructed commercial office building of the same scale, according to a CTBUH research paper. This LEED Gold certified building’s sustainability features include a high-performance façade that minimises heat penetration and maximises natural light, as well as its external vertical stone fins that provide shading.
Architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) incorporated sustainable technology and engineering into the 309-meter-tall Pearl River Tower. According to SOM, the tower directs wind to help push turbines that generate energy for the building. Other sustainable elements include solar panels, a chilled ceiling system, under-floor ventilation, and daylight harvesting, all of which contribute to the building’s energy efficiency.
China: Hong Kong International Commerce Centre (2014)
At 484 meters and 108 stories, this is the tallest building in Hong Kong, and the sixth-tallest in the world. It is equipped with a centralised intelligent control system that collects and analyses operational data 24-hours a day and evaluates seasonal variations. The data is used to adjust the air conditioning system for greater energy efficiency. With this system, energy consumption can be 15 percent lower compared to general office buildings without such an application.
Japanese architect Nikken Sekkei and developer Sumitomo Forest have announced plans for the world’s tallest wooden skyscraper. The 350-meter tower is set to be completed by 2041 and is to be located in central Tokyo. The timber skyscraper forms part of the W350 project, a mixed-use environmentally friendly development whose completion will mark Sumitomo‘s 350th anniversary. The concept has been prepared by Sumitomo’s Tsukuba Research Institute, which the company hopes will help “transform the city into a forest.”
Image credit: Sumitomo Forestry