The Dangers of Building Too Tall

An article by Steven Snell summarizes the drawbacks of building vertical cities.

1 minute read

August 9, 2014, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


"Taller we continue to build, and in greater numbers, but it’s no longer about getting closer to heaven, at least not in the literal sense," writes Snell. "There are many reasons why: a symbolic gesture of power and cultural influence; a city’s emergence on the 'global stage'; a stable investment opportunity for international finance portfolios; an efficient use of land. Whatever the reason, however, erecting tall buildings, or more totally, tall cities, has numerous negative ramifications."

Some of the negative consequences of tall buildings, as cited by Snell in the article, include the isolating effects of high-rise residential buildings, the heat island effects induced by tall buildings, shadows andloss of natural light, the negative impacts of many tall buildings on the walkability of the street below, and the danger tall buildings present to birds. We're sure there are more, as well.

Once we acknowledge that tall buildings have drawbacks, can we imagine and build a city that finds the right balance between the built and natural environments: "Taken en masse, if we recognize the negative impacts of a collection of tall buildings, we might begin to ask questions seeking an alternative type of city. One that isn’t tall. One that isn’t of parking lots and big box stores and sprawling communities either. Just one that uses land wisely, however complex enacting that principle can be."

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