Making High-Rise Sustainability a Bold Reality

An overview of high-rise sustainability: A detailed description, some key examples, and hopes for the future.

By Jane Marsh

The built environment creates significant amounts of surface-level and atmospheric pollution. Urban regions have larger carbon footprints partly because of their construction methods. High-rise buildings contribute to urban greenhouse gas emissions and natural resource exploitation.

Environmentalists and government officials are targeting the building sector to minimize pollution. Architects are utilizing sustainable high-rise models and helping regions meet their conservation goals. There are five features builders may add to high-side buildings to increase their sustainability.

skycraper with balcony gardens: High-Rise Sustainability
High-Rise Sustainability: Green Balconies

What Is High-Rise Sustainability?

Globally, buildings produce about 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions. They also consume nearly 40% of natural resources. Sustainable high-rise buildings challenge adverse ecological impacts by minimizing emissions.

Unlike conventional buildings, sustainable high-rises are energy-efficient. They also use fewer natural resources like freshwater. Builders are increasingly constructing sustainable high-rises from locally sourced materials.

The structures generally produce as much clean electricity as they consume. Construction professionals install high-efficiency appliances in sustainable high-rises to meet net-zero goals. Green building models challenge the ecological degradation of conventional high-rise structures.

Environmental Challenges With Conventional Buildings

Two significant components make up a building’s carbon footprint. About 28% of global emissions derive from building operations. Nearly 11% of pollution comes from building material use and construction practices.

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems make up the most significant quantity of building operations’ emissions. About 20% of residential emissions come from HVAC system energy use. Another crucial contributing feature is indoor lighting.

After evaluating buildings’ sustainability limitations, construction professionals can install green features to minimize pollution.

Renewable Microgrids

The most notable feature of a net-zero building is renewable energy. High-rise buildings can produce as much electricity as they consume by using solar and wind power independently. First, individuals must receive an energy audit on their buildings before installing renewable energy systems.

Energy consultants can conduct audits and help builders access the most supportive systems. The size and condition of a high-rise impact its clean energy production abilities. When building owners install solar panels, they can create clean microgrids.

The microgrids deliver affordable and sustainable electricity supplies. Builders can also enhance the eco-friendliness of high-rise buildings by installing smart systems.

Smart Technology

Smart technological devices use the internet of things (IoT) to improve conventional systems’ energy efficiency. Many sustainable buildings include smart thermostats, which reduce HVAC emissions. The technology uses remote sensors to monitor a building’s varying temperature zones.

Construction professionals can also make high-rise buildings sustainable by installing smart lights. The lights connect to individuals’ smartphones and offer remote controls. Builders can further improve high-rise sustainability by adding light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs to their smart lighting systems.

LED lights are about 75% more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs. They also last nearly 25 times longer and produce less municipal solid waste (MSW) over time.

Construction professionals may also improve a building’s sustainability by installing a rainwater harvesting system.

Rainwater Harvesting Systems

When buildings waste their water supplies, they contribute to ecological degradation. Builders can install rainwater harvesting systems on high-rise buildings to improve their environmental sustainability levels.

The systems collect stormwater and pump it through advanced purification devices. Individuals can use the purified water to clean, bathe, drink, and more.

Modular Construction

Construction professionals can develop high-rise buildings with recycled materials using the modular construction method. The building practice also reduces waste and emissions by relying on controlled environments. Modular construction happens inside warehouses where educated professionals minimize material and energy waste, shrinking a structure’s footprint.

Natural Sustainability Features

High-rise buildings are also naturally more sustainable than single-story structures. Building upwards creates less construction pollution than building outwards. Most high-rise buildings reside in urban places with efficient access to public transportation systems.

The location of a residential or commercial building significantly contributes to its sustainability. High-rises are also more sustainable because more individuals can share a unified resource infrastructure. If a high-rise apartment building has over five units, it uses significantly less energy than traditional homes.

Where Are the Greenest High-Rises?

Engineers in New York City are developing more sustainable high-rises to meet their sustainability goals. The city plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Individuals can find other sustainable structures in regions with similar eco-conscious ambitions.