New York City's Supertall Buildings Fashionable and Sleek But Are They Safe?

The latest trend in residential buildings in the Big Apple has to do with the super tall and super slim apartment buildings cascading along Central Park.  They are all the rage and one of the most sought after real estate commodities in decades.  And now, the Old Grey Lady has weighed in opining upon the safety of such buildings.

"Supertall” apartment buildings, the thin towers for the ultrarich in the blocks just south of Central Park, have remade the Manhattan skyline in the last few years. They are gleaming and new, but they are covered by old rules and regulations — requirements written when apartment houses were constructed the way prewar buildings had been. Some building-safety experts are concerned that outdated building codes could be inadequate, even when they are followed precisely."

While these new super tall buildings are highly coveted and provide a wide variety of the New York City landscape, especially Central Park, the buildings themselves react differently to the elements of nature (think fire, air, and water) than more traditional buildings.  Stefanos Chen was interviewed by the NY Times about these new buildings and noted, "The complexity is not only in the height, but in the ways these new towers are built differently than more conventional apartment buildings. Glass facades are different than sturdier brick facades. I spoke with one professor who was an expert on the Grenfell Tower in London, the residential tower that burned in 2017. One concern he’s had for years is that a glass curtain wall behaves differently at high temperatures in a fire than, say, a more substantial brick facade.

And that’s without considering that new, taller buildings have much more open floor plans than residential buildings used to have, which could make it easier for a fire to spread."

Like self-driving cars, the new technology is providing engineers and safety experts with a new set of issues.  The old adage "Just because you can build it doesn't mean you should build it," may apply to both technological wonders.

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