When it comes to skyscrapers, is taller greener or smaller better?

Building up, rather than out, combats urban sprawl, but smaller means more sustainable buildings and lifestyle, more trees and green space.

I heard an interesting debate the other day on the topic of cities and skyscrapers. In a nutshell, when it comes to cities and buildings, is taller greener or is smaller better? In other words, should environmentally minded people like or dislike skyscrapers?

The Taller Greeners:
• Building up, rather than out, combats urban sprawl, means more concentration of people, means better for mass transit which equals fewer cars and lower emissions.
• Building bigger means more opportunity to use technologies like distributed generation, advanced energy efficiency, lighting and monitoring, which typically are more economic in larger projects.

The Smaller Betters:
• Smaller means more sustainable buildings and lifestyle, more trees and green space.
• Smaller means more neighborhood connectivity for all of us.
• Taller often means more nonsustainable steel, and lots of AC load, which we could avoid with smaller buildings.
• Smaller means less concrete and steel, which are often associated with the increased temperatures in cities.

Perhaps some of the environmentally friendly buildings in progress in places like Dubai or New York can bridge the debate, and make skyscrapers ultra green and ultra cool.

What do you think?

In the interests of full disclosure, I am writing this blog from the second floor of a skyscraper in my office in downtown San Francisco, and because of the lack of good public transport access where I live, I have to drive in to work every day.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Neal Dikeman is a founding Partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, advising the technology and venture arms of multi-national energy companies in cleantech. While at Jane Capital, he has cofounded superconducting technology company SC Power Systems, Inc. (now Zenergy Power plc), and wireless technology startup WaiterPad POS Systems, and he is currently involved in launching a new venture in carbon credits. Dikeman edits and writes the Cleantech Blog, where he has written extensively on biofuels, solar, and global warming.


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