Skyscrapers are the new symbols of (solar) power

From the construction of the first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building in 1885 in Chicago, architects, engineers and urban designers have thrust technology to meet the growing demand of space in cities. The energy performance has also evolved over time.

The first 10-story skyscraper – the 42 m high Home Insurance Building – was built thanks to the introduction of the elevator and the steel frame, which allowed going higher without placing all weight on the masonry. These innovations gave way to a sprawl of high-rises in Chicago and New York. Developers began to compete in the construction of the tallest towers: the Chrysler Building in 1930, the Empire State Building in 1931, the World Trade Center in 1971 and the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) in Chicago in 1973.

At the turn of the century, the competition moved east, with the opening, in 1998, of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, followed in 2004 by the Taipei World Financial Center and, in 2010, the Khalifa Tower in Dubai. With its 829 m, this is the tallest skyscraper in the world to date. The energy performance of such constructions has also evolved over time. A study by consultancy Terrapin Bright Green on the 1958-73 Manhattan office towers highlights that “all of these buildings have heating, cooling and ventilation systems optimised for an era in which natural resources were cheap and plentiful.” It adds: “Curtain wall construction was very rare, and double-glazed buildings did not become prevalent until after 1974, as a response to the 1973 energy crisis.” Today, environmental and energy concerns are top of the agenda, especially with increasing urbanisation, growing energy demand and looming climate change…

The full article was published on Sun & Wind Energy in May 2015. The publication is available on subscription. Photo: the CIS Tower in Manchester © Solarcentury.