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  • For years in the western world.

  • It was thought to be blasphemous to build higher than the a church spire.

  • The stories of the old testament warned against reaching too close to the heavens.

  • The builders of the tower of Babel declared: “Come, let us build us a city and a tower

  • with its top in the heavens.

  • And let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered upon the face of the whole

  • earthBut god punished them for building a monument

  • to humanity and not to God by confusing their language so they could no longer work together.

  • This story is used as the source of our world's languages for the religious and some still

  • use it as an argument against our modern world, but it has interesting undertones for the

  • development of our cities.

  • For centuries the church spire remained as the focal point of most western cities.

  • The Trinity Church was the largest building in New York until 1890 when the New York World

  • Building was completed.

  • This marked an end to the Cathedral dominated skylines of many cities across the world.

  • Those church spires served as a symbol of piety, but The New York World Building's

  • height allowed Joseph Pulitzer to expand his growing business without having to find a

  • large swath of land on the outskirts of the city.

  • Growing taller served a practical purpose and it still does in many cases.

  • It's that demand for space that truly drives up the average height of buildings in cities.

  • Cities like Hong Kong do not have any supertall buildings, but the average height of buildings

  • in Hong Kong is among the highest in the world and that is largely driven by the lack of

  • space available.

  • Hong Kong is confined by the sea on one side and the Chinese border on the other while

  • having a very mountainous landscape.

  • There isn't a huge amount of land to build on.

  • This forced buildings to grow taller to accommodate the city's population.

  • .

  • When Hong Kong needed to expand their International Airport there was little space available.

  • Instead they decided to level two islands outside the city to create a new artificial

  • Island, where the new airport is now located.

  • This project added 1% to the total surface area of Hong Kong.

  • When space is limited humans are forced to get inventive to cope, but in many cities

  • across the world space is not an issue and these cities usually decide to expand outwards.

  • This is called urban sprawl and it's been a topic of debate lately, with calls to stop

  • this decentralisation of cities.

  • Urban sprawl requires little micro-management of resources, you simply continue to expand

  • current utilities and roads and approve buildings on cheaper undeveloped land.

  • It's an easy solution to a growing population, but it creates many problems of it's own

  • and is completely unsustainable as populations grow.

  • You cannot simply keep expanding the city and allowing those problems to escalate.

  • It has huge environmental and social impacts.

  • One of the most obvious, which my friend Wendover Productions spoke about in his last video,

  • was an increasing commute time.

  • With an increasing city diameter the distances we have to cover to reach the city centre

  • increases and it is incredibly difficult to serve all of these far flung suburban neighbourhoods

  • with adequate public transport.

  • This results in a city dependant on the car, our least efficient form of transport.

  • This not only has a social impact, as long commute times are one of highest and most

  • controllable factors that affect our happiness, but The average American spends 17,600 minutes

  • behind the wheel a year, much of that is spent in gridlock traffic, that's equivalent to

  • spending almost an extra 37 days at your traditional 8 hour 9 to 5 job, but it also has a direct

  • impact on pollution and air quality in the city too.

  • That's 17,600 minutes of a car polluting the environment.

  • Reducing a city's dependence on cars reduces our carbon footprint on this world.

  • Urban sprawl affects our environment in other ways too.

  • Spreading our cities creates water distribution problems.

  • Here in Ireland it is thought that up to 50% of the treated water is lost through pipe

  • leakage and that problem is not unique to Ireland.

  • In 2010 it was reported that 3.3 billion litres of water was being wasted in the England and

  • Wales through pipe leakage.

  • Reducing the sprawl reduces the length of pipes needed and thus reduces the chances

  • of leakages and the problem can be attenuated further by creating buildings with self sustaining

  • water supplies.

  • This is becoming a growing trend and consideration among engineers.

  • LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is one of the most popular green building

  • certifications used world wide.

  • It rates how resource efficient buildings are in their construction, energy use and

  • water use.

  • The Taipei 101 was awarded LEED's highest certification with a platinum certificate.

  • It achieved this with it's own dedicated water management systems and low-flow water

  • fixtures.

  • This design ideology helped the Taipei 101 to decrease it's potable water consumption

  • by at least 30% compared to the average building consumption, saving about 28 million liters

  • of potable water annually.

  • When you also consider that in America landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly

  • one third of all residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons of water per day.

  • It would be vastly more sustainable for a world where water is in ever increasing demand

  • to create cities where we have a larger percentage of LEED certified high rise residential buildings.

  • This goes beyond just environmental impacts, there are a number of socio-economic motivations

  • to creating more high rise buildings too.

  • I pointed out that the urban sprawl results in longer commutes and the roads and public

  • transportation needed to facilitate those commutes are not free.

  • They need to be maintained and built with your tax money and while building up is more

  • costly, that cost and risk is usually incurred on private contractors and the costs of building

  • up starts to decline once you reach a certain height.

  • To build a skyscraper there are a number fixed costs, but many of these costs do not increase

  • with the height of the building.

  • Fixed costs like the cost of land, legal fees and design costs can be offset by building

  • higher.

  • If the building is built on a 100 square metre plot of land and the building has 40 stories,

  • each floor only takes up 2.5 square metres of land.

  • That has obvious economic advantages, especially when you consider design and material costs

  • only start to go up when you reach around the 40th floor and that critical height is

  • likely to go up as technology improves.

  • Buildings like the Burj Khalifa may be just exuberant displays of wealth, but they do

  • serve as technology demonstrators.

  • For 25 years the tallest building in the world was the Sears Tower, now known as the Willis

  • Tower.

  • It uses a bundled tube structure, which maximises the amount floor space, but if we scale this

  • building to the size of the Burj Khalifa.

  • It's floor space would be dominated by structural elements and the interior would have no natural

  • light.

  • As mentioned in my last video, the buttressed core of the Burj Khalifa provides the structural

  • integrity needed to reach these heights, while maximizing both the window access and usable

  • space.

  • This is vital knowledge and experience to have to allow building heights to keep growing

  • while keeping costs down.

  • So you may be thinking why aren't there more high rises buildings.

  • If there are all these benefits there must be reasons that we aren't building more

  • of them.

  • We will learn why after this quick side note

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  • So they primary reason we aren't building higher is because of city planning and regulatory

  • problems.

  • Take New York's growth in the early 20th century as an example, building heights were

  • growing and many were unhappy with it.

  • At the time 5th Avenue was filled with stately mansions, homes to the wealthy families of

  • New York like the Carnegies and Rockefellers.

  • They worried that unless building heights were restricted, 5th avenue would turn into

  • a dark cannon, overshadowed by these towering behemoths.

  • These worries led to 1916 zoning resolution which allowed buildings to grow in height,

  • but restricted their width as they grew.

  • This is one of the primary reasons so many buildings in New York built during that era

  • taper towards their top.

  • It was a measure to prevent buildings from blocking the sunlight below, but the regulation

  • had loop holes and architects quickly exploited them.

  • Between 1916 and 1960 the city's zoning code was amended 2500 times.

  • The 1961 Zoning Resolution brought in strict rules and introduced a new floor to area ratio

  • rule that restricted buildings heights according to the district they were.

  • The floor to area ratio set how much floor space could be built on a plot of land.

  • A floor to area ratio of 2 means you can build a 2 story building on your full plot or a

  • 4 story building on half your plot.

  • R1, R2 and R3 districts are low density zones like Staten Island and the Jamaica Estates

  • in Queens and they have a floor to area ratio of 0.5.

  • Where as major thoroughfares in Manhattan are R9 and R10 districts which have floor

  • to area ratios of 7.5 and 10 respectively.

  • This floor to area ratio rule put pressure on designers to allocate more space to open

  • plazas or other public spaces around the building to faciltate a taller tower, whereas the 1916

  • zoning laws resulted in tiered buildings that started right on the sidewalk.

  • The 1961 zoning code encouraged privately owned public space to ease the density and

  • claustrophobia of a high rise city and I think we can all agree that is a move in the right

  • direction.

  • Zoning regulations like this are important to prevent brainless growth that destroy a

  • city's character, but sometimes they are overzealous and prevent modernisation altogether.

  • Take Washington DCs zoning code that has been in place for over 100 years with little change.

  • The Height of Buildings act of 1910 prevents any building beyond 40 metres in height.

  • That is incredibly restrictive and it has resulted in a city where the tallest structure

  • is a giant stone obelisk and this thing.

  • Even with a relatively small population, Washington has some of the worst traffic in the US.

  • A study released this year by INRIX found that the people of Washington waste an average

  • of 75 hours per year in traffic.

  • That means their journeys take 75 hours more than if there was no congestion.

  • They were second only to Los Angeles, who waste an average of 81 hours a year in traffic.

  • LA is often singled out as the key example of this problem of unchecked outward growth.

  • It was a key theme in the movieHer”, where the car dominated urban sprawl of the

  • present is juxtaposed with a vision of a glossy, clean, high rise future for LA.

  • The main character Theodore lives in a highly developed downtown LA.

  • He lives in a high rise building and works in a high rise building.

  • He's able to walk between them and cars seem to have ceased to exist,he instead uses

  • the extensive metro system to get around.

  • The movie even designed a futuristic subway map of LA.

  • To create this vision of the future, the producers digitally enhanced the cities existing skyline.

  • While also mixing in shots from present day LA with numerous shots from Shanghai's Pudong

  • district, like this pedestrian sky bridge which allowed Spike Jonze to film Theodore

  • wandering through the urban jungle without having the cars at street level interfering

  • with the illusion of a city that has transcended the need for personal transport.

  • That transformative change seems implausible and not likely in the near future, but cities

  • can undergo metamorphosis when money and regulations are not an issue.

  • Take the mid-19th century renovation of Paris as an example.

  • Paris was once described by one of it's residents asan immense workshop of putrefaction,

  • where misery, pestilence and sickness work in concert, where sunlight and air rarely

  • penetrate.

  • A terrible place where plants shrivel and perish, and where, of seven small infants,

  • four die during the course of the year.”

  • This is an incredibly stark description of Paris, when present day Paris is often fawned

  • over for it's wide boulevards, amazing architecture and extensive public transport system.

  • Paris of old was plagued with problems caused by the outdated planning of it's medieval

  • past.

  • Paris was in need of renovation and Napolean III made it possible by giving the money and

  • power needed to Baron Haussmann.

  • He transformed these narrow streets and old dilapidated buildings into spacious boulevards.

  • (Rue de Rivoli)

  • He revamped all of these streets in red and created two new parks for the cities residents.Napolean

  • III and Haussmann helped transform Paris into the charming city of light that 16 million

  • tourists now visit every year.

  • But it may be time to start rethinking Paris' city planning once again.

  • The lack of housing in central Paris has caused prices to raise so high that only the rich

  • can afford it.

  • Forcing the working class families of Paris to the outskirts of the city.

  • Creating huge disparity of wealth between the centre and outskirts.

  • This map shows the concentration of social housing as a percentage of total residences,

  • with the largest percentages being located furthest from the city centre and even now

  • these people are being forced further outside the city limits as gentrification occurs.

  • Paris is no stranger to revolts of the working class with notable riots in 1968, 2006 and

  • just this year Paris saw more riots as new labour laws were passed giving employers more

  • power to increase working hours, decrease holidays and decrease pay.

  • The lack of affordable housing compounds these social problems and the main cause of these

  • prices is Parisians unwillingness to build over existing buildings.

  • During Haussmann's renovation of paris height restrictions on buildings were raised from

  • 16.5 to 19 metres, but the transformation of Paris took place in a time where elevators

  • did not exist.

  • In 1967 the height restrictions were lifted and the Montparnasse Tower was constructed

  • soon after.

  • A building that is loathed by Parisians.

  • It sticks out from the surrounded buildings like a sour thumb.

  • There is a fine line between progress and regression.

  • Paris renovated to rid itself of the claustrophobic narrow streets of the past, building higher

  • without thought will bring it right back to that.

  • The construction of this building resulted in the height restriction being reduced to

  • 25 metres for central Paris.

  • France is a heavily regulated country and when it's rulers decide they don't want

  • change, change will not occur.

  • But one part of Paris proves that modern high rise buildings can be introduced without destroying

  • the character of the city.

  • Lafense is Europe's largest purpose built business district housing 180,000 daily

  • workers.

  • Lafense proves that skyscrapers can be incorporated into the historic background

  • of Paris without destroying it's charm, but Lafense is a financial district.

  • It was built to create office space and houses just 25,000 permanent residents.

  • There is little motivation to build high rise buildings to reduce housing prices as it is

  • cheaper to push people to the outskirts of the city.

  • Paris is not alone in these problems, London has been criticised for the same problems

  • and Vice News made<