Slick, glassy skyscrapers cast their shadows over the streets and spaces of cities in the world. These behemoths are notoriously inefficient: glass exteriors lure the sun’s rays during summer and hemorrhage heat during the wintertime, requiring year-round air-conditioning and climate control. Dark interiors require huge arrays of bright lighting, while hundreds of computers are used during 24 hours, which lead to consume even more electricity.
Big windows and high air-conditioning needs mean radical new approaches are needed.
Whatever you think of skyscrapers, they guzzle energy. One study revealed that electricity use per square meter of floor area was nearly two and a half times larger in high-rise office buildings (20 or more stories) than in low-rises (six stories or less).
The gas used for heating was about 400th more for tall buildings, and the entire carbon emissions from these buildings were double as high.
Glass skyscrapers are the worst offenders. Big windows may offer magnificent views but they leak heat in cold weather; even triple-glazed windows lose far more heat than a well-insulated brick wall.
In hot weather, glass windows turn to build interiors into ovens, and temperatures rise even further with the heat from bodies and computers in an office. It was solely the development of modern air-conditioning that made the inside of glass buildings bearable in summer, however, carbon emissions from air-conditioned offices are about one hour higher than offices with natural or mechanical ventilation.
Air-conditioning is expanding worldwide – by 2050 it's expected that the energy consumption for air-conditioning could be triple. It would be a difficulty for renewable energy to meet all this demand and if we are to tackle climate change, a radical new approach of designing multiple occupancy office spaces needs to be found.
In conclusion, the future cannot be found in a small number of freakishly tall designs. Rather, it's in the huge number of efficient, versatile skyscrapers, which can be essential to cope with growing urban populations and keep cities running.