Home improvements — December 5, 2021 at 10:29 am

Why do we build upwards?


Multi-storey buildings are ever increasingly popular in the construction industry for use as commercial spaces, recreational uses as well as residential uses. As the name suggests, multi-storey buildings are buildings with one or more levels on top of the ground floor level built on top of each. This allows the building size to grow vertically upwards as opposed to single-storey buildings which can only grow in the same level and require more horizontal area to do so. This very characteristic is one of the primary reasons for opting to build upwards as land is a scarce resource in many parts of the world, and increasingly so as industry develops, and population increases. Therefore, for optimal usage of land and increasing productive density, humans have elected to build multi-storey buildings which are able to host a significantly larger amount of useful floor area for the same or slightly larger ground floor area. Multi-storey buildings are classified into various subdivisions based on their height, with low-rise, mid-rise, and high-rise being among the lower end (up to ten storeys) and skyscrapers, supertall, and mega tall structures being on the higher end (exceeding forty storeys and/or 600 metres).

Multi-storey buildings can be made with generally the same materials as single-storey buildings, although steel is much more viable and cost effective for multi-storey buildings as they have a lower self-weight compared to their load capacity. It is also possible for single storey buildings to be made to allow for second storey building extensions by implementing additional load bearing capacities in the foundation and columns for future use. Several advantages of building multi-storey buildings are described in further detail in this article.

Land use

This is the most significant advantage of multi-storey constructions. Land use can be optimised by building upwards as the usable floor space increases with minimal increases to ground floor use. This is especially useful in smaller countries with high population density where land is a scarce resource and also in areas prone to flooding or under threat of rising sea levels. However, it should be noted that extremely high constructions require more space on the ground floor as well due to service lines, foundation construction and other load bearing elements.

Cohesion and Connectivity

This is mostly applicable for commercial spaces and residences where the cohesion of similar businesses and residences in the same building allow the layout of the town or city to be more organised. For example, various shops, schools, and hospitals may be established within the neighbourhood of several residential buildings, which house hundreds of citizens while taking up a fraction of the space, allowing for easier access to these services due to their proximity.

There are, however, disadvantages with building upwards, one of the most significant being the cost. The cost per area is substantially larger for multi-storey buildings due to the materials required and the engineering and architectural expertise. They are also more expensive in terms of operational costs due to the energy usage for building services.


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