Sustainability in High-Rise Cities

William Hellmuth
Chairman + CEO
HOK, Inc., Washington D.C.

Density – putting more people in a smaller land area - is an inherently sustainable way to build. Dense development uses less resources in terms of both in land as well as the systems that serve the built environment. As our world population grows, our cities and buildings must get taller rather than wider. High-rise buildings are an important part of creating urban density and must demonstrate and attain the greatest levels of sustainable performance possible. This presentation explores and demonstrates via case studies, where tall buildings are providing an anchor for dense, diverse and sustainable urban development. Tall buildings, when properly designed in compact cities, have the ability to reduce energy consumption. Compact development can reduce infrastructure costs by about 15-40% (and over 50% in some cases) in comparison to typical suburban development. Higher-density environments have been shown to reduce overall vehicle-miles traveled.

The ADNOC Tower in Abu Dhabi has reduced both energy and water use dramatically. The tower performs at an EUI of 45 kBtu/SF/year, while the median for commercial buildings in all climates is 50-55 kBtu/SF/year. The Tower saves over 2.5 million gallons of water a year (40%). ADNOC’s height allows more than one third of its site area to be given back to the community as public parkland, which is vegetated with native plants and provides a comfortable microclimate, mitigating urban heat island effect. This presentation demonstrates how the use of solar orientation, high-performance envelopes and integrative design can achieve sustainable performance and connect the tall building to its regional context.