Enhancing quality of life in residential high-rises by sustainable design responses
After the end of World War II, in England was observed a proliferation of high-rises, replacing the destroyed buildings by the bombing and the existing slums. However, their popularity variated with time, at first being seen as a great improvement of the living condition, but later the authorities faced many complain that these buildings were unfit for normal living and especially for families and children. Nowadays England has to cope with a great heritage of towers from the 60s’ and the 70s’, as well as an increase in the construction of new high-rise buildings especially in the capital London. This research recognises the need to improve the design of the existing and future high-rises so they are in the same time sustainable and provide a better quality of life for the occupiers. Therefor an overall aim of the study was formulated: to investigate strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the impact of high-rise buildings on quality of life through four objectives. The first one is to evaluate the connection between sustainability and quality of life indicators in high-rise buildings. The second one it to analyse liveability of high-rise buildings for better quality of life. The third one is to analyse energy-efficient solutions and their impact on enhancing quality of life. The final objective is to produce a conceptual framework for designing sustainable high-rise residential buildings enhancing quality of life. The methodology adopts an interpretive and realist paradigm and the data for this research was gathered from primary and secondary sources: interviews, observations and archival data. After searching SkyscraperPage database, it was found that two types of high-rise persist around UK and are numerous in London and Manchester: 12-16 storey buildings with brick cladding and 22-30 storey buildings with concrete cladding, so a limited number of buildings with these characteristics were selected for the case study. Actually, an effort to interview 3 to 5 residents in the same building at low, middle and high floors was made, instead of interviewing single residents from numerous different high-rises, in order to evaluate the significance of the height. The preferred method was interviews, as questionnaires were found to provide superficial data, open to misinterpretation from the researcher. Interviews, on the other hand, provided in-depth information about the social phenomenon: high-rise living, many surprising answers and most importantly, attitudes and preferences that were not influenced by the formulation of the questions but were formulated by the interviewees themselves. Seventeen interviews with residents were conducted in two old high-rises in Manchester and four in London to include the users ‘needs into the research process. Twelve interviews with residents in new high-rises illustrated the existing variations for the design issues. Additionally, twelve architects shared their proven experience designing residential high-rises, offering invaluable expertise for the design of sustainable residential high-rises providing better quality of life. The data generated then were analysed by content analysis and dynamic simulations with DesignBuilder of an approximated model of one of the studied high-rise complemented the interviews, investigating different building envelops and HVAC scenarios. This quantitative method supported the somewhat subjective findings regarding thermal comfort and cost-efficiency from the interviews. The main findings showed that specific sustainable design solutions are adequate for enhancing the quality of life in residential high-rise buildings. Some alerting data from the interviews with the residents reveals difficulties imposed by the design on the social interactions, more common in the old high-rises lacking any amenities. Other important findings inform that both existing and contemporary designs are not orientated towards the needs of the families with children, a major weakness stated by both the architects and the residents. The observations provided support for a view that both modern and old high-rises often fail to enhance and improve the built environment by both appearance and mix of functions, a valuable facet of the high-rises’ social impact. The analysis led to the elaboration of a theoretical framework that can be used by professionals and academics to guide their design process and constitutes the major contribution to knowledge.
- PhD