Well-developed and secure urban spaces attract foreign investments and give citizens access to quality healthcare, good governance and robust public transport systems. However, one of the biggest challenges that Bihar’s urban development faces is availability of real estate. Lack of space has led to cheek-by-jowl constructions dominating Patna’s urban landscape.
By 2050, India is projected to add 404 million urban dwellers. With only 11.2 percent of urban population in the state as per 2011 data; Bihar will engulf a large part of 404 million by 2050. This means more and more people will need homes to stay and offices to work in cities of Bihar. Where will these homes and offices be? Where is the space to make newer towers? The answer lies in going the Burj Khalifa way. To counter the growing space crunch in cities of Bihar, we need to expand vertically. We need to create safe, secure and sustainable high-rises. Besides altering the city’s architectural landscape and skyline, skyscrapers make economic use of space and minimize urban sprawl. However, building these super-tall structures is easier said than done. From construction and maintenance to energy consumption, there are a number of challenges when it comes to tall towers.
In order to make real estate in Patna affordable and address the problem of congestion in cities of Bihar, Floor Space Index (FSI), also called Floor Area Ratio (FAR), needs to be increased in many cities – a case in point being Patna. FSI refers to the ratio between the total built-up area and available plot area. The government determines the FSI for a particular locality. This will let builders bring down old structures and construct taller towers. Besides, it will also be a major step in realizing ‘Housing for All’.
While more FSI will mean more skyscrapers, not everyone is optimistic about this prospective move. Urban planners and housing experts are of the opinion that this move will only put further strain on Patna’s already crumbling infrastructure. If cities are to reap the benefits of more FSI, they must put an integrated urban infrastructure plan in place. Ample attention should also be paid to the neighbourhood plan of any new construction. This includes approach road, parking space, recreational area and the likes. The neighbourhood layout should be in consonance with the structure being constructed. Only then will vertical growth be accompanied by holistic development of cities.
Construction of skyscrapers cannot happen in isolation. It needs to be in harmony with a city and its resources. While designing super tall towers, ample attention must be paid to water and waste management, energy usage and other related infrastructure. Architects and urban planners must take care to ensure that such structures do not put a strain on urban resources. In fact, they should be sustainable structures that use energy efficiently. There should be emphasis on renewable energy, environment-friendly design and intelligent use of technology.
Tall towers are often termed as energy guzzlers, especially the ones that house offices. Lighting usually consumes tremendous amounts of electricity. An effective way of incurring less power bills is to judiciously use natural light, have sufficient ventilation and tap renewable energy effectively.
Escalators and elevators are the main forms of transportation within any tall building. As cities get taller and taller, these two assume a lot of importance, especially elevators. As buildings grow skyward, there is a growing demand for high-speed elevators. However, while choosing lifts, speed should not be the only criterion. It must be tested for energy efficiency as well. This is crucial because during peak hours, the energy consumed by elevators and escalators can be as high as 50 per cent of the energy used in buildings. That’s why choosing an energy-efficient elevator can significantly bring down the costs of operating a building.
As more and more cities get created in Bihar, the number of skyscrapers is only going to go up. While these towers will no doubt solve space-related problems, they will also necessitate deployment of intelligent technology systems — technology that uses energy economically and is able to provide sustainable solutions.
Urban planners should ensure that vertical expansion does not happen in an unchecked manner. All stakeholders must be taken into confidence before creating any tall tower. As mentioned earlier, such towers cannot exist in isolation. Their day-to-day operations will directly impact the city they are located in. As a result, while designing any skyscraper, there should be a complete blueprint of how it will interact with the rest of the urban infrastructure. Only then can we have smart and sustainable skyscrapers and cities in Bihar.