The Environmental Performance of Tall Buildings

This course embraces the overarching theme of the environmental performance of tall buildings proposing a critical review that covers issues related to the environmental performance of tall buildings from both urban and architectural perspectives. In this context, the typology of the tall building is taken as a motive to the study environmental design and its contemporary principles, methods and objectives, as the verticality imposes natural challenges to environmental design strategies, such as those associated with natural ventilation. Based on principles of building physics and fundamental analytical procedures, the course embraces a clear technical approach to the topic.

Supported by theoretical references, research precedents and real case-study buildings from contemporary practice, the course reviews the latest thinking towards the topic of the environmental performance of tall buildings, culminating in the formulation of design hypothesis for the future of the \”environmentally responsive\” tall building. The first module, The Tall Building and The City, looks into the impacts of the tall building\’s typology upon the urban realm and its transforming effects, raising issues associate with urban mobility, social and economic vitality and, in particular, environmental conditions on the ground and the environmental impacts on surrounding buildings.

The second module addresses the theme of Environmental Design, exploring theories and principles of building physics applicable to architectural design, highlighting the role of climate and the importance of environmental requirements and occupants\’ expectations in the overall design and energy performance of buildings.

Following the understanding of general principles, the third and fourth modules entitled The Iconic Office Tall Building and Residential Tall Buildings, respectively, investigate in more detail specific matters of the environmental performance of office and residential tall buildings, based on facts and figures from a number of case studies located in different parts of the world. Within the overall context of existing buildings, the opportunities for retrofitting are introduced, supported by design applications. The critical review of case-studies draws lessons from the real-life environmental performance of buildings, revealing the impacts of specific architectural features within particular climatic contexts, alongside to the key influence of occupants and cultural parameters.

Having learnt from theory and practice, the fifth module, Design Exercise, calls the attention to the challenges inherent in the architectural design of environmentally responsive tall buildings. The discussion about possible contribution between technical and creative design processes are based on successful precedents, whilst the resulting building proposals are critically reviewed. Furthermore, the specificities of analytical work are properly explained as well as its usefulness to inform architectural design, including the key role of computer simulations.

Concluding the critical review of the environmental performance of tall buildings, the sixth module, Green Economy, brings the current arguments about the value of environmental design, underlining the importance of architectural and environmental quality, besides the need for higher energy performance. In this case, the economic case for green buildings is justified in the context of more sustainable economies and urban development in both developed and developing countries, considering the challenges imposed by future climate change scenarios.