By Assad Bhuglah

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In almost all the major cities of the world, residential buildings are characterized with high-rise and high-density of residents. More and more high-rise residential buildings are being introduced to the cities individually or in clusters. Super high-rise projects, as tall as 70 or 80 stories high are being designed and constructed in North America and Asian cities, such as Tokyo, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Limited land areas, geographic and demographic conditions are the major factor behind the mushrooming of high rise buildings. With the increasing trend in rise of urban population, accompanied by growing industrialization and expanding commercial activities in the cities, there will be a greater tendency for people to move where the work is and create new lives there.

There is no consensus on what constitutes a tall building or at what magic height, number of stories, or proportion a building can be called tall. A high-rise building as defined by Emporis Data Community is “a building 35 meters or greater in height.

Two of the biggest problems in major cities are transport and the lack of affordable housing. New tower blocks would offer a way of alleviating both problems. Intense demand for housing in property hot spots and the acute shortage of affordable land means that in many areas the only way to build cheaper homes is to build taller buildings. Higher density inner city living would also help ease traffic congestions by housing people closer to work.  High rise apartment buildings are typically built in desirable, urban locations to meet demand.  These locations yield a variety of lifestyle features, including the proximity of work place, shopping, nightlife, public transportation, and more. Residents find themselves within a few minutes walking distance to places of routine services and save a lot on time and transportation. They can enjoy the facilities and high living standards, which are often offered by the urban life such as good hospitals, recreational facilities and so on.

High-rise buildings offer amenities for those who are looking to make their lives easier.  These amenities include an on-site gym, dryer cleaner, laundry room, controlled entry, on-site maintenance, and more.  Doormen and security systems can be of great value to those who live alone or travel frequently.  There are also business centres where the residents can take care of all their copying, faxing, and other business needs. Many high-rise buildings also offer underground parking.  This feature can help make maintaining one’s car and parking a lot easier.

One of the biggest trends in high rise design are "common areas" these include outdoor kitchens, lounges, areas for dogs to play, gyms, social lounges, recreation centres, prayer halls and other common areas where residents can socialize and meet their neighbours.

However, high rise residences are fraught of several disadvantages.  In a high-rise the residents commonly have neighbours above, below and to both sides of their apartments. Obviously this can be a positive, but it has the potential disturbance and trouble when the neighbours are partying all the time. With that many people living together in a building, it is difficult to get away with noise nuisance from neighbours, no matter how many times complaints are made to the management or landlords; there will always be some tenants who would not follow the rules. Another concern about high rise apartment buildings is that there is often not a lot of space to move around. High rise apartment buildings are built to house a large number of people in a small amount of space. If someone is claustrophobic or prefer one’s own space, then this might not be the appropriate place to reside.

There are only two options for getting to and from a high-rise apartment: the elevator or the stairs. If ever the elevator goes out of order, the residents would have to walk up several flights of stairs when the elevator is out. The inconvenience becomes greater if one has to climb with groceries, briefcase or anything else.  It would be challenging trying to move heavy furniture and appliances up and down stairs in high rise buildings, and more so, because the space of hallways and corridors can be small.  

The options for gardening are very few in a high rise apartment, and in some cases, it may have none. The one with a balcony, can give the possibility to grow vegetables, herbs, plants and flowers in containers. Balconies can be a big danger when it comes to young children who are curious creatures prone to any accidental slip and falls that could be fatal. There is no adequate space such as private backyards and playgrounds for holding parties or cooking a biryani or grilled food on open fire.

People living on the upper floors of high-rises are far more likely to die from a cardiac arrest – caused usually by a heart attack - than those residing on the lower levels. And the reason is simply that paramedics cannot get to the top floors quickly enough to use defibrillators or give life-saving medication in the event of heart problems. Cardiac arrests that occurred on higher floors may have a lower probability of survival due to the delay to patient contact by paramedics. "Building access issues, elevator delays and extended distance from the emergency vehicle to the patient can all contribute to longer times to reach the patient and start time-sensitive, potentially life-saving resuscitation.

People living in high rise apartment need to think ahead and be prepared in event of fire and other calamities. Fires and water damage are more common in apartment complexes where several people reside all together than in a house where only one family resides. If someone else in the complex accidentally leaves his/her stove on or experiences a burst water pipe, there is a chance that all residents will also be impacted. They face a harder challenge trying to evacuate due to emergencies, such a natural disaster or fire. Many people will be trying to evacuate the building at the same time, and most of them will be panicked.


 Recently, the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower block fire in London, which claimed an estimated 80 lives, sent shockwaves that resonated far beyond the British capital.  Poor maintenance and sub-standard conditions were main causes of this accident. Standards vary wildly and all too often it is the poorest and most marginalised that end up in substandard accommodations, sometimes with terrible consequences. The provision of safe, affordable housing requires different approaches supported by well-crafted policy, strong implementation, and a variety of actors working together.  City authorities must stand up for their residents and they will also have to get tough on building owners.