Article by Andreas Eleftheriou in Kathimerini


With the gaze towards the future: "High-rise buildings as an architectural-typological entity, constitute a subject of serious and intensified discussion and debate."

The purpose of the article is to capture thoughts and opinions on high-rise buildings, based on the latest architectural and urban trends worldwide, in order to shed light on potential risks and prospects in their design and construction in Cyprus.

Over the past decade, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with distinguished architects/engineers and international design firms in the design and construction of high-rise buildings in Cyprus and abroad. I participate in discussions and listen to the concerns and reflections of fellow citizens and colleagues regarding the advantages and disadvantages of high-rise buildings. This dialogue, the discussion-debate, whether in public or private, takes place internationally in academic and political fora and is fair and constructive. In some cases, there are misconceptions and incomplete information that we will try to clarify.

First and foremost, the existing legal-planning framework in Cyprus, as shaped in recent years, allows for high-rise buildings in selected urban areas for large land parcels, in specific zones, and for specific uses. These buildings do not have a larger footprint than conventional buildings. This means that the number of apartments, the number of occupants, and the number of required parking spaces in a high-rise building do not differ from those in a conventionally sized building on the same plot.

Therefore, it follows that there is not necessarily an increased need for infrastructure (water supply, sewage, electricity, waste collection, longer roads, and utilities, etc.) or an increase in fuel, water, electricity consumption, etc. in a high-rise building compared to a conventionally sized building on the same plot.

Even with the above clarifications, high-rise buildings today, in terms of architectural and building typology, are the subject of serious and heated debate. Opinions on their contribution to the architectural character and urban fabric of a city usually vary strongly, with strong proponents and strong opponents. With the continuous increase in population in urban centres, supporters argue that high-rise buildings and vertical development are the solution to reducing the surface expansion of built space at the expense of the countryside. Opponents argue that high-rise buildings, on one hand, pose risks (such as fire, earthquakes, etc.) and, on the other hand, significantly burden the surrounding environment (historical and cultural character, natural environment-coastlines, etc.), negatively affecting the comfort of citizens.

Concerns about fire hazards, earthquakes, etc., are issues that have been addressed abroad, and relevant legislation already exists in Cyprus, being enriched, improved, and implemented by experienced professionals and scientists. Permanent wet risers are required and specified in the staircases of high-rise buildings, and structural solutions are based on the latest Eurocodes.

Many Cypriot architects, engineers, and other colleagues now have the experience and expertise due to collaborations with large, experienced, and specialized foreign offices. This knowledge is valuable and useful, as innovative solutions for solving technical problems, difficulties, and challenges in high-rise buildings, as well as the relevant expertise, are now being applied in buildings of conventional height, improving their safety and construction quality.

Reducing the surface expansion of built space and protecting the countryside and forests through vertical expansion is imperative on small, limited surface islands like Cyprus. High-rise buildings in cities and increased density in urban centres can protect the few remaining forests in Cyprus and preserve the traditional settlements of the countryside, combined with appropriate legislative regulations, incentives, and practices. Even within dense urban fabric, high-rise buildings could contribute to increasing urban greenery. For example, for every high-density high-rise building on an urban plot, large-scale parks and public squares with public access could be requested from the development authority (see example diagram). The legal and urban planning framework for high-rise buildings already provides for similar requirements, which are moving in the right direction and could be further enhanced for the benefit of the city and its citizens.

The discussion with the greatest intensity concerns the impact of high-rise buildings on the natural and built environment. Concerns about the influence on the historical or architectural character of sensitive areas, the impact on the coastline with excavation and drainage products, high energy requirements for cooling and heating, and adverse effects on neighbouring buildings in terms of views, shading, and sunlight, are the most serious and essential concerns regarding high-rise buildings, not only in Limassol and Cyprus but globally.

Many of these concerns are based on the traditional model of high-rise high-rise buildings that has been adopted in the United States and the rest of the world in previous decades. This model consists of a central core (which serves as the structural, mechanical, and circulation system of the building) surrounded by work/living spaces. The building is sealed with a glass envelope, filled with air conditioning and heating systems, and is placed in pieces without taking into account the local climatic conditions, the architectural character of the city, historic buildings, culturally or environmentally sensitive areas, or the comfort of the residents in the area.

Today, this dominant model of high-rise buildings has changed significantly.

Examples of new high-rise buildings have been present worldwide for several decades. They are designed and constructed taking into account modern requirements of bioclimatic design and local climatic conditions, reducing or even completely eliminating the need for artificial climate control. The use of powerful computers and software can contribute today to the design of smart, environmentally friendly, and energy-independent high-rise buildings that are geographically and climatically adapted.

The architect must consider the surrounding environment, both structured and unstructured. Historical buildings, monuments, and culturally significant areas should be protected. High-rise buildings have the potential to create large open spaces and parks in the city, allowing visual connections to and from natural, historical, or cultural points of interest.

The challenge lies in meeting the housing needs of an increasingly growing population while simultaneously protecting the natural environment and respecting the local, historical, and cultural character of our cities. High-rise buildings with vertical atriums, large ground floors, and open spaces for public use, smart and energy-efficient envelopes, innovative forms, and construction solutions represent, in our opinion, the direction that this typology of buildings should follow. These buildings exist today, scattered throughout major urban centers worldwide, and serve as symbols and examples of the significant role of architecture for the cities of the future.

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