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Social Innovation

Our buildings are doing more with less

When it comes to urban planning, the only way is up.

More than 1.5 million people are moving to cities every week. Where are these people going to live and work?  The answer is to build higher.

Taller buildings solve many of the issues associated with overcrowding in cities. Obviously, a larger building accommodates more people and critically, due to the high cost of real estate, is cheaper thanks to a smaller footprint. There are also many, less obvious, benefits. Congestion is reduced as fewer people are forced to travel from outside the city. Green areas and farmland are preserved and systems like water, heating, cooling and waste are more cost-efficient when resources have less distance to travel.

So, why aren’t new buildings as high as possible? Huge buildings face issues of safety and usability. Thankfully, tech is now available to help make cities more vertical.

What’s happening up there?

For a management company, knowing what is happening throughout a tall building is difficult. 10s, or even 100s, of floors need constant monitoring for security, safety and environmental controls. For example, tall buildings need to be extremely well monitored for fire.

Connected devices are the perfect solution. The latest sensors can track where people are, the temperature, light conditions as well as the more traditional smoke detection. When integrated with cameras, thermostats, lighting and fire alarms, these tiny pieces of tech can monitor huge amounts of space. The human controllers retain oversight without having to have eyes everywhere.

Elevator going up

There is no point having a tall building if no one can get to the top. A high building therefore needs a fast, and safe, elevator. Hitachi took on the challenge at the Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre in South East China. The centre, known locally as East Tower, stands at 1,739 feet (530 meters), making it the seventh tallest building in the world.

The central elevator created by Hitachi travels at 1,260 meters per minute while providing a safe, comfortable experience for passengers. The speed of the elevator means a passenger can get from the ground floor to the 95th floor (a distance of 440 meters) in just 42 seconds.

Still rising

Buildings are getting taller as the pressure of urbanisation takes hold. For example, Jeddah Tower, currently under construction in Saudi Arabia, is set to become the world’s first 1km high building. We can expect more huge buildings to be built to accommodate growing urban populations, but they will depend on technologies like smart sensors and ultra-high-speed elevators to stay safe and useable.