Homes for Heroes?

Published:  06 January, 2015

High rise, multi-use buildings present an opportunity to the industry - but we must raise our game. 

As readers of MBS will know, its pages are focused on the commercial construction sector, rather than the buiding of dwellings. However, the line between these two areas is increasingly blurred, with leading consulting engineers called in to work on sites which are often multi-use, combining homes, retail outlets, leisure areas and often including technologies such as CHP or other renewable installations that require their expertise.

It is significant news then that London has given the go-ahead for five of the city’s tallest towers, all of which epitomise this approach. The proposed towers are in Docklands and Vauxhall. Two of the towers, designed by Foster & Partners will have 68 and 36 storeys, creating 900 apartments in total.

There has been a great deal of debate about the return to high-rise living that proved so disastrous for many only a few decades ago. The claim is that we have learned the lessons of the past: no more barren concrete blocks that turn residents into prisoners. The plan is to combine new homes with public spaces around them, wide balconies and other resident amenities.

Objections have been raised and members of the London Assembly called on the Mayor to restrict high rise building in the capital. However, in spite of this over 200 towers at an average of twenty storeys each are planned. Some are commercial, others homes – many will be a combination.

The city needs homes, and in the cramped space of London, the only way really is up. The question will be whether the architects and engineers can pull off something that inspires and pleases occupants. One resident of East London was quoted in the Evening Standard saying that for this era of high rises, “we need to get developers to raise their game’.

These developments offer a great opportunity for a construction industry which has gone through hard times. But we also need to take a breath before grabbing an opportunity which, if not considered and executed carefully, could lead to poor quality outcomes. Definitely a time to raise our game. 

Karen Fletcher is Director of Keystone Communications

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