Thursday, November 29, 2012

High Rise Buildings, At What Cost?

China's Sky City One will be taller than Burj Khalifa when it is constructed. And if it is built in 90 days, it will be a stunning new world record. But, a quick look at this video - of the recent fire in a high rise building in Dubai - will show us how fire can spread fast. And many cities are not adequately prepared to handle emergencies in tall buildings.
This video, taken on 18 Nov, 2012 (Sunday), is of the 34-story Tamweel Residential Tower in a property known as Jumeirah Lakes Towers in Dubai. Luckily, the rescue crews evacuated everyone with no physical harm, but damage to property has been severe. (click here for news and comments on this)

Just five months ago, on 8 June 2012 (Friday), a fire in the 76-storey Al Sulafa Tower, in the Dubai Marina made hundreds of residents, from more than 700 flats, to flee from a fire. (click here for this news)

Last year, on 8 Nov 2012, firefighters in Sharjah, north of Dubai, struggled to battle a blaze in a 25-story tower without equipment to reach the flames.  (Click here to read about this Sharjah Fire)

While we must appreciate the quick response of fire-fighters in these cases, we cannot overrule the fact that some of these buildings can become death traps. 

Now, Dubai is coming up with new fire laws along with the building permission laws and norms.

I think it is not important that cities just aspire, and compete, to build higher and higher buildings. Maybe size does matter for some heads of governments with huge egos, but it is absolutely essential that civil defense systems, security and safety measures, emergency evacuation plans, and fire-drills are given due attention.

With our ambitious dreams to make our cities to have the tallest buildings in the world, we should not neglect human life; and the impact these buildings are having on general lifestyle.

I know of many tall buildings with many vacant floors here. The tenants are unwilling to pay the high rents and are leaving. Or the high rental costs are not attracting any new tenants.

We know that high rise buildings need huge maintenance costs for safety and security. And, ultimately the tenant is expected to foot the bill. So, rents go high for tenants, and not just the risk.

A rethinking is essential on whether very tall buildings are really needed, or should be allowed to be built.

I believe, rulers of countries and mayors of cities must focus on other factors like safety, security, cost and comfort issues, and not just on world records.


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