Why build tall?

With a growing population and the demand for housing greater than ever, particularly in London, building tall is a necessary development that not only contributes to an already impressive skyline, but responds to the high demand for more residential and commercial space, as well as public amenity due to a smaller footprint.

When built with the wellbeing of the people living therein mind, they are an important and essential response to the current housing crisis.

What is wellbeing and well building?

Wellbeing is the state of being comfortable, healthy and happy; well building involves improving health and human experience through design – these two go hand in hand with living well. Items to be considered include air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. Achieving a balance between these items in tall buildings can be a challenge, particularly when it comes to natural lighting as site layout constraints and density requirements will have a significant impact on daylight access, but early planning of the buildings’ overall configurations and cores will help optimise performance. Consideration should be given to existing neighbours, as well as buildings in this development.

Water: Safe and clean water through the implementation of proper filtration techniques and regular testing in order for building occupants to receive optimal quality of water.

Air quality in tall buildings should not only be considered inside the buildings, but also the wind microclimate around buildings. Consider height differential and density grading principles to protect pedestrians and street level.

Availability of fresh, wholesome foods that will encourage better eating habits and food culture should be considered. London has paved the way over the last decade or so for fitness being designed and built into residential tall buildings.

The building needs to provide comfort to all with an accessible design and considerations given to exterior noise intrusion, internally generated noise, reverberation time, thermal comfort etc. to ensure optimal living conditions.

Mind: Include existing neighbours in a collaborative development process to ensure that the construction and maintenance follows local expectations for the building(s). This can include health goals, a celebration of culture / spirit / place, integration of public art, green spaces etc.


Other considerations for tall buildings

Fire Safety
Fire and smoke compartmentation is the single most useful design aspect of any tall building – in residential buildings, compartmentation of each apartment as well as each floor is recommended.

The needs of the fire services in the event of a fire should also be taken into consideration during the design stage e.g. firefighting lifts for tall buildings. Buildings over 18m must have cladding of limited combustibility.

Engineering challenges
These include the strength of materials and foundations, stiffness of structural system and control of dynamic motion.

Managing legal risks in tall buildings
De-risking during the pre-construction phase and management of risk during the construction phase is key.

Pre-construction – designers should take responsibility for the integration of their design into the whole design. Consider end use e.g. sustainability, the role of Estates Manager and maintenance etc.

Construction – choose quality and experience of contractors over lowest cost.

Sectional / phased completion – consider vertical access requirements, welfare facilities, deliveries and storage, interruption of / by tenants etc.

Consider off-site / pre-manufacture techniques e.g. Mace’s £9m ‘Rising Factory’ at East Village.


The key challenge is creating a sense of community. Historically, tall buildings have not worked when there has been a lack of consideration for management, maintenance and the wellbeing of the people living there.

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