Yeang, Ken. The Skyscraper Bioclimatically Considered: A Design Primer. Academy Group, Ltd.: London, 1996.
In his works on bioclimatic skyscrapers, Ken Yeang seeks to revision the skyscraper in terms of responsiveness to its climate and environment. He calls this a "bioclimatic" approach, where he seeks to design low-energy, passive buildings with a focus on better occupant comfort. He seeks to revitalize architecture as a craft, rather than an engineering problem, that addresses building from the notion of the urban environment and the environment internal to the structure.
Yeang considers three primary forms of architecture to be uniquely American: the skyscraper, the fast-food restaurant, and the movie palace. Skyscrapers are, physically, a result of many technological advances (structural framng/steel beams, wind bracing, new piling and foundation methods, high-speed elevators, a/c systems, etc.) and of the need to geographically optimize land-costs and building economics. They are the intensification of space within a horizontally compact and vertically extensive urban form.
Bioclimatic skyscrapers are skyscrapers that use environmentally and climatically sensitive forms and means of construction. The points Yeang considers vital to bioclimatic skyscraper design are:
Given that a location's climate is a relatively durable feature, it is a legitimate starting point for expression in relation to place. Bioclimatology, in architectural terms, is the relation between the form of a structure, and its environmental performance in relation to its external climate. Although such an approach has higher start-up costs, it produces lower life-cycle energy costs, as well as providing a healthier and more human environment within the structure. Other issues he considers vital to bioclimatic consideration are those of place-making, preserving vistas, creating public realms, civic zones, physical and conceptual linkages, and the proper massing of built forms. A bioclimatic skyscraper should be its own little environmentally interactive community as well as interacting with the surrounding community.
Yeang tries to conceive of the bioclimatic skyscraper so that it addresses the wants and needs of its inhabitants. They attempt to provide greater individual control of the internal environment, recreation on the ground plane as well as other provisions for recreation and relaxation, a view out, accessibility and access to transitional spaces, a sense of awareness of place and more space per person.
Approaches to bioclimatic design also include and increased organic mass in the urban setting through landscaping of greenery as part of the entire building facade. Such greenery also provides some shade, air-filtration, an improved micro-climate on the facade of the building, photosynthetic absorption of pollutants, wind breaks, and improved aesthetics. Ventilation is achieved through a simple chimney effect coupled with wind channelling.
Although the bioclimatic approach is an excellent way to rethink skyscrapers in terms of greater environmental integrity and in terms of occupant health and well-being, there is the question of whether he goes far enough. Taken at face value, his approach creates a collection of environmentally sound oases in an otherwise overlooked landscape. Although far better than a normal skyscraper overall, there is little indication of how the bioclimatic skyscraper will improve the environment of the surrounding urban network. How will it be fitted into what already exists? Will it be actively integrated or stuck on as an isolated example of how to do something "right"? The next question that must be asked, after a bioiclimatic skyscraper has been proposed, is how to best fit it into the urban environment in a way that is of greatest mutual benefit.
Some salient quotes:
[In architecture] propositions can progress (and then be tested) only where they are permitted by external constraints. [p.5]
The global economy today is increasingly aware of energy as a scarce resource; the need to conserve energy and design for a sustainable future is becoming imperative for all designers. [p.9]
Physically, the skyscraper might be defined as a multi-storey building, generally constructed using a structural frame, provided with high-speed elevators, and combining extraordinary height with ordinary room-spaces, such as would be found in low buildings. [p.13]
[...] in all those instances where costs have been given precedence over the aesthetic, human or poetic aspects of architectural design, the built forms that inevitably result are more often than not bland, inarticulate boxes. [p.15]
What is needed is an endemic approach that will enable the designer to relate the skyscraper to different cultures and places. [p.17]
[A bioclimatic skyscraper is] a tall building whose built form is configured by design, using passive low-energy techniques to relate to the site's climate and meteorological data, resulting in a tall building that is environmentally interactive, low-energy in embodiment and operations, and high-quality in performance. [p.18]
[...] a locality's climate is probably its most durably endemic characteristic (beside the site's bedrock). [p.21]
If the bioclimatic skyscraper's architecture is to be justified as a new genre of building type, it must transcend being a clever reorganization of external building forms and superficial changes to facades. [¶.] Essentially, the skyscraper's design must create a new and significant form of internal life for its inhabitant that has not existed before in other genres of the same type. [p.73]
The point is that urban design in the twenty-first century must be vertical rather than horizontal. [p.75]
Landscaping and planting at the upper parts of a skyscraper are crucial to the aesthetic well-being of its users as well as being an important ecological issue for this intensive building type. [p.98]
The intention is to counter the intensive inorganic masses of the built structure. [p.100]
The bioclimatic building might be regardes as being 'materials led.' [p.155]
The external wall of the bioclimatic skyscraper should be regarded more as a 'sieve' than as a sealed skin. [p.176]
When designing a skyscraper, the designer must also look at the greater environmental impact and contextual implications of the building in relation to the site, the city block, and the city itself. These considerations constitute the geography of the skyscraper, its spatial and urban relationship with its surroundings. [p.226]
[The skyscraper] has, within the incredibly short period of its urban history (since its introduction in the 1890s), become the key influence on the city, its workings and its society. [p.226]
The complex geographical genesis of the tall building is found in demographics, location and land values, resulting from society's need for growth. [p.243]
All the usual urban design concepts commonly planned horizontally in the ground plane for good city and civic design must now be reinterpreted vertically for the skyscraper. [p.246]
The proposition of re-planning and re-building all of today's cities on a clean slate, based on ecological principles, may mean whole-sale waste of he existing building stock and infrastructure. It is clear that skyscrapers will continue to be built regardless of current piecemeal achievements of ecological proponents. [p.247]
Copyright 2000 -- Peter L. Kantor [firstname.lastname@example.org]