Skyscrapers in Paris and "green density"
- From Fast Company online, this article about plans by Foster +
Partners to build a "sustainable" skyscraper development in Paris:
Foster + Partners are the same group responsible for the overall
design of Masdar in Abu Dhabi. Seems they are taking Old Paris to Abu
Dhabi and transporting the suburbs of New Dubai to Paris...
The end of the article online has a link to an opinion piece in
todayy's New York Times at http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/the-lorax-was-wrong-skyscrapers-are-green/?hp
which argues that urban density is greener than living in
suburbia. Various points in this article can be contested but one
important thing among them is the author's simplistic contention that
skyscrapers are possibly the most sustainable building form. He seems
to ignore the fact that the most prominent skyscrapers in New York
City are nonresidential, and that density (high overall F[loor]/A[rea]
R[atio] can be achieved other ways, i.e. by mid-high density
residential building more evenly distributed over a given area rather
than superhigh density building alternating with very low density
automobile transportation corridors.
Foster + Partners Building Sustainable Twin Skyscrapers in ParisBY
Ariel SchwartzFri Mar 13, 2009 at 9:09 AM
Mixed-use buildings are becoming increasingly popular, and now famed
architecture firm Foster + Partners is tossing its hat into the ring
with the tallest mixed-use towers in Western Europe.
Hermitage Plaza will consist of the two 1,060-foot high buildings and
a public piazza running to the River Seine. The towers will house
everything from a hotel and spa to apartments and offices. Shops will
be built at the base of the structures.
Foster + Partners hope to achieve an BREEAM "excellent" rating --
comparable to a high LEED rating--with help from the towers' glazed
facade panels that catch light throughout the day and promote self-
shading. Vents can also be opened to bring fresh air inside. And of
course, mixed-use, high-density buildings always deserve kudos for
minimizing transportation needs by providing multiple services in one
place. As a recent Green Inc. post speculated, maybe skyscrapers
really are the most sustainable buildings around.
Tags: Innovation, Technology, Ethonomics, skyscrapers, Foster +
Here is the NYT "green density" piece. Again, the comments at the
online article contain a series of very good rejoinders:
March 10, 2009, 7:04 AMThe Lorax Was Wrong: Skyscrapers Are GreenBy
EDWARD L. GLAESER
Edward L. Glaeser is an economics professor at Harvard.
In Dr. Seuss� environmentalist fable, �The Lorax,� the Once-ler, a
budding textile magnate, chops down Truffula to knit �Thneeds.�
Over the protests of the environmentally sensitive Lorax, the Once-ler
builds a great industrial town that despoils the environment, because
he �had to grow bigger.� Eventually, the Once-ler overdoes it, and he
chops down the last Truffula tree, destroying the source of his
income. Chastened, Dr. Seuss�s industrialist turns green, urging a
young listener to take the last Truffula seed and plant a new forest.
Some of the lessons told by this story are correct. From a purely
profit-maximizing point of view, the Once-ler is pretty inept, because
he kills his golden goose. Any good management consultant would have
told him to manage his growth more wisely. One aspect of the story�s
environmentalist message, that bad things happen when we overfish a
common pool, is also correct.
But the unfortunate aspect of the story is that urbanization comes off
terribly. The forests are good; the factories are bad. Not only does
the story disparage the remarkable benefits that came from the mass
production of clothing in 19th-century textile towns, it sends exactly
the wrong message on the environment. Contrary to the story�s implied
message, living in cities is green, while living surrounded by forests
By building taller and taller buildings, the Once-ler was proving
himself to be the real environmentalist.
Matthew Kahn, a U.C.L.A. environmental economist, and I looked across
America�s metropolitan areas and calculated the carbon emissions
associated with a new home in different parts of the country. We
estimated expected energy use from driving and public transportation,
for a family of fixed size and income. We added in carbon emissions
from home electricity and home heating. We didn�t try to take on the
far thornier issues related to commercial or industrial energy use.
This exercise wasn�t meant to be some sort of environmental beauty
contest, but an estimate of the environmental costs and benefits
associated with living in different parts of the country. In a recent
City Journal article, I gave a brief (and somewhat polemical) synopsis
of the results.
In almost every metropolitan area, we found the central city residents
emitted less carbon than the suburban counterparts. In New York and
San Francisco, the average urban family emits more than two tons less
carbon annually because it drives less. In Nashville, the city-suburb
carbon gap due to driving is more than three tons. After all, density
is the defining characteristic of cities. All that closeness means
that people need to travel shorter distances, and that shows up
clearly in the data.
While public transportation certainly uses much less energy, per
rider, than driving, large carbon reductions are possible without any
switch to buses or rails. Higher-density suburban areas, which are
still entirely car-dependent, still involve a lot less travel than the
really sprawling places. This fact offers some hope for greens eager
to reduce carbon emissions, since it is a lot easier to imagine
Americans driving shorter distances than giving up their cars.
But cars represent only one-third of the gap in carbon emissions
between New Yorkers and their suburbanites. The gap in electricity
usage between New York City and its suburbs is also about two tons.
The gap in emissions from home heating is almost three tons. All told,
we estimate a seven-ton difference in carbon emissions between the
residents of Manhattan�s urban aeries and the good burghers of
Westchester County. Living surrounded by concrete is actually pretty
green. Living surrounded by trees is not.
The policy prescription that follows from this is that
environmentalists should be championing the growth of more and taller
skyscrapers. Every new crane in New York City means less low-density
development. The environmental ideal should be an apartment in
downtown San Francisco, not a ranch in Marin County.
Of course, many environmentalists will still prefer to take their cue
from Henry David Thoreau, who advocated living alone in the woods.
They would do well to remember that Thoreau, in a sloppy chowder-
cooking moment, burned down 300 acres of prime Concord woodland. Few
Boston merchants did as much environmental harm, which suggests that
if you want to take good care of the environment, stay away from it
and live in cities.
Montreal QC Canada
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