- Research by engineering firm Arup has imagined the skyscrapers of 2050
- The buildings could include high-rise farms and algae-biofuel cells
- ‘Intelligent building systems’ will adjust to the needs of inhabitants
- Jet-powered drones will maintain the modular structures, which can be reconfigured to suit the needs of society
The skyscrapers of the future will be ‘living’ buildings powered by algae that respond automatically to the weather and the changing needs of inhabitants, a new study claims.
Research by engineering multinational Arup, the firm behind the Pompidou Centre, the Sydney Opera House and many of the stadia for the 2008 Olympics, has imagined how urban buildings could look by 2050.
Predictions include ideas as outlandish as jet-powered maintenance robots, high-rise farms and photovoltaic paint – all of which, incredibly, are already in development.
‘In 2050, the urban dweller and the city are in a state of constant flux – changing and evolving in reaction to emerging contexts and conditions,’ the report says.
‘The urban building of the future fosters this innate quality, essentially functioning as a living organism in its own right – reacting to the local environment and engaging with the users within.’
The study by by Arup’s internal thinktank predicts that structures will be fully integrated into the fabric of the city, responsive to changes in the external environment, and designed for continuous adaptability.
Responding to estimates that in four decades 75 per cent of an estimated global population of nine billion will be living in cities, it foresees a shift to increasingly dense urban environments.
At the same time, it predicts, the rise of networked ‘smart’ devices will lead cities ‘where everything can be manipulated in realtime and where all the components of the urban fabric are part of a single smart system and an internet of things’.
‘SAUDI SHARD’ WILL BE 1KM HIGH
The British company that built the Shard has landed a contract to build what will become the world’s tallest building – and plans reveal the two look remarkably similar.
London-based Mace won the £780million deal to build the Kingdom Tower, pictured right in an artist’s impression, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which will stand more than 3,280ft (1km) high.
The Shard is currently western Europe’s tallest building at 1,003ft (306m) high.
Mace will participate in a joint venture with fellow British firm EC Harris to create the huge building, which has been given a completion date of 2018.
The Kingdom Tower, which will have a construction area of more than 5,381,955 square feet, will stand at four times the size of the Shard.
It will overlook the Red Sea and is expected to take over from the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which stands at 2,717ft (828m), as the world’s tallest skyscraper.
It is not yet known how tall the skyscraper will be as developers keep exact details of the plan a secret.
The most incredible prediction in the Arup report claims that the buildings of the future will benefit from brain-like ‘intelligent building systems’ that enable them to automatically adjust to the needs of inhabitants.
Using data about energy consumption, weather, and the whims of residents, they will be able to make ‘calculated decisions’ about how to best use resources.
This could extend as far as using jet-powered maintenance arms to swap the ‘modules’ that form the building blocks of the skyscraper.
Such modular components could be used for residential or commercial units, or even urban food production sites housing animal, fish or vegetable farms, depending on what is needed at the time.
‘In this emerging age, with significant developments in construction, prefabricated and modular systems are moved and assembled by robots that work seamlessly together to install, detect, repair and upgrade components of the building system,’ the report says.
With human population set to mushroom, the predictions take into account likely increased concern about the pressure so many souls would put on our planet’s already-strained natural resources.
The Arup report promises buildings that will one day in fact produce more resources than they consume thanks to external walls coated with photovoltaic paint, wind turbines and even pods growing bio-fuel producing algae.
Green spaces would be dispersed throughout the building to encourage urban biodiversity, while water systems would be optimised for recycling and reuse and filters would cut down on environmental pollutants, it says.
The building’s facades, as well as having the potential to generate power from the sun, could also be coated with nano-particle treatments that neutralise airborne pollutants and capture waste carbon dioxide.
Elements such as vast organic LEDs could even allow for whole surfaces of the structure to light up at night, creating a new form of street lighting.
‘Coupled with daylight absorbing abilities, the technology realises the possibility of ‘net zero energy’ artificial lighting,’ the report says.
The Arup report, entitled It’s Alive, was put together by Josef Hargrave, a consultant in the company’s
Foresight + Innovation team, an internal thinktank which focuses on the future of the built environment.
He concludes: ‘By producing food and energy, and providing clean air and water, buildings evolve from being passive shells into adaptive and responsive organisms – living and breathing structures supporting the cities of tomorrow.’