Rock solid

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It is not a surprise that building tall is so popular when you consider recent figures announced by the United Nations. These say that by 2030, 60% of the world’s population – expected to count for 5 billion people – will live in urban areas.

It is perhaps inevitable that as the world’s population grows, buildings will choose to reach upwards rather than outwards to find more space.

It also goes without saying that the popularity of tall towers in the GCC has a lot to do with their role as symbols of power and success.


Skyscrapers provide a tangible and visible message that a city is strong and successful. So, in the current economic climate, owning or building an iconic skyscraper holds a stronger attraction than ever.

That said, pressures on budget and resources are changing the game for tall building design teams. Similar to other types of building project, design and construction of tall buildings has to be smarter, more efficient and must deliver more for less.

In addition, there are challenges that design teams must address that are unique to building tall, in terms of the engineering of the physical structure, its visual impact and the building’s performance in use.

Integration from the earliest stages between the client, the architect, the engineer, the construction team and the building services consultant is key to building tall.

Collaborative working is more critical than ever in order to ensure that efficiency in terms of time and cost, go hand in hand with delivering against engineering requirements; developing an innovative design; and meeting occupiers’ needs.

A key question remains, however. The trend for tall buildings may be driven both by pragmatism and by desire for distinction but, given the current and anticipated pressures on budget and resources, is there still a place for sustainability?

Without doubt, yes. The opportunities for achieving a truly sustainable tall building are several: from consideration of the local environment, through to material choice and construction for energy efficient performance, through to incorporating more unusual features such as green roofs, SUDS and renewable energy systems.

Then there is the structural elements. Tall buildings like the Gherkin in London have been able to increase recycled content and achieve high levels of energy efficiency by using lightweight concrete made with lightweight, secondary aggregate.

The 40-storey building is created to appear less bulky than other buildings of a comparable size: using secondary lightweight aggregate enabled the distinctive tapered shape of the building to be structurally feasible as well as boosting the sustainability credentials of the project, which specified recycled materials whenever possible.

Design and construction teams must take advantage of the opportunity that tall buildings afford to showcase the best of sustainable building. The region, and indeed the world, will be eagerly watching.

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