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The Green Skyscraper: The Basis for Designing Sustainable Intensive Buildings

The Green Skyscraper:

by Ken Yeang, 1999. Prestel Verlag, Munich. Paperback, 304 pages, $29.95

The challenges presented by Ken Yeang in

The Green Skyscraper start right with the cover shot—an arresting model of the Tokyo Nara Building revealing several floors of skyscraper devoted to gardens and a soft, sculptured form—and continue through most of the text. Yeang opens this design treatise with the observation that most people regard skyscrapers as part of the environmental

problem, not part of the solution.

In the first four chapters Yeang challenges this view, arguing that it is rooted in anti-urban bias and the unfortunate environmental legacy of skyscraper design, not the possibilities that tall buildings present. Already a majority of the world’s population live in urban areas. The operation of the urban land economy exerts pressure to build upwards. This pressure is intensifying in both the developed and the developing worlds. In the developing world, urbanization is still occurring at a very rapid pace, and governments and city boosters still favor skyscrapers as icons of progress. In short, the pressure to build more high-rise buildings will not diminish. Yeang argues that these are reasons to work with, rather than against, the trend. Limiting upward growth adds pressure to urban sprawl; low-rise development encourages private transport and undercuts the viability of mass transit systems; greenfield developments can be ecologically damaging while undermining the economics of redeveloping brownfield sites and abandoned urban neighborhoods.

In the last three chapters Yeang lays out a framework for designing green skyscrapers. In this short, technical book, aimed at students and existing practitioners, emphasis is placed on passive design approaches including natural ventilation, daylighting, and “vertical landscaping” to reduce energy use. A brief discussion of life-cycle analysis forms the backdrop to strategies for minimizing the embodied energy of steel, glass, and concrete by designing for easy deconstruction and recycling/reuse of buildings or component parts.

More attention could have been given to systems such as elevators—which can account for up to 10% of a building’s energy consumption. On the whole, however,

The Green Skyscraper offers a good overview of the ideas behind Yeang’s work. As a practitioner working in fast-growing Southeast Asia, Yeang has already implemented green skyscraper design principles. Together with his built work, this book challenges our preconceptions of what skyscrapers can be.

Published July 1, 2000

(2000, July 1). The Green Skyscraper: The Basis for Designing Sustainable Intensive Buildings. Retrieved from

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