The Hidden Costs of High-Rise Living

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Residential high-rise buildings play a vital role in housing people all around the world. In Canada, an estimated one in five people live in high-rise buildings. These range in cost from affordable units for lower income individuals, to some of the most luxurious residences in the country.

Advocates of high-rise living cite positives such as proximity to services, access to public transportation, and efficient use of land space. Although there are numerous benefits to high-rise living, too many buildings have not kept pace with modern technological advances. As a result, developers are increasingly expected to bear the cost of construction, repairs and replacement of deteriorating machinery.

Common shortfalls of older high-rise buildings include (

  • Water penetration and air leakage through the building envelope, resulting in structural and other damage, high utility costs and occupant discomfort.
  • Specified materials are frequently substituted with ones that are not compatible.
  • Inadequate thermal envelope performance and thermal bridging, results in occupant discomfort and high energy costs
  • The slow deterioration of buildings through moisture damage.
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems strongly affected by wind pressure and building stack effects, causing poor air quality.
  • Changes in land use that impact on storm water flow.
  • Occupant dissatisfaction with noise levels throughout the building.
  • A general lack of accessibility for people with disabilities.

Architects and engineers agree that better high-rise buildings can be constructed to improve their performance, but it requires modifications to the design and construction process, more comprehensive detailing, enhanced quality control and improved maintenance procedures.

In the last two decades, scientists, researchers and developers have invested significant effort in creating improved design and construction procedures to address the most common problems encountered in high-rise residential buildings. The result is new methods of upgrading parkades, enhanced durability, improved accessibility and better environmental performance of buildings.

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