High-rise buildings and the capital

 

Sir, – In his damning critique of recent high-rise proposals, Frank McDonald somehow ignores environmental sustainability (“Planning free-for-all has developers reaching for the sky”, Opinion & Analysis, May 29th).

This is remarkable, given the looming threat of climate change, and very unfortunate: there is evidence that high-rise can be an important contributor to making cities greener.

It is by no means true that high-rise is always environmentally friendly. Tall buildings are often, perhaps usually, quite detrimental to the goal of greener cities.

But if planned properly, if constructed using the right materials, and if designed to include various eco-friendly innovations, they can be a significant net benefit.

The skyscrapers architects refer to as “fifth generation” – for instance, the Tower at PNC Plaza in Pittsburgh – are the model here.

Of course, high-rise should be constructed in concert with social considerations, but if this is done, then we should welcome them as a means of mitigating the impact of urban sprawl on wildlife habitats; negating much of the emissions from transport; and contributing to an increase in the supply of housing, especially housing that allows for less life to be wasted in commuting.

McDonald’s proposed alternative is modelled on Paris, where eight-storey buildings are the norm. This might have been a viable alternative before Dublin was built but copying it now would presumably involve replacing most of Dublin’s existing buildings.

In any case, Paris is hardly a model of affordability, being one of the few cities more expensive for housing than Dublin. Its many ghastly banlieues are another feature Dublin might want to avoid.

McDonald has allowed his criticisms of specific high-rise developments to spill over into a criticism of the very idea of high-rise in Ireland. His unbalanced piece certainly offers no consideration of its merits.

He should look to Singapore’s recent efforts at sustainable high-rise and consider whether the practical benefits override his mostly aesthetic misgivings. – Yours,etc,

Dr MICHAEL KEARY,

Teaching Fellow

in Humanities

and Social Sciences,

Nazarbayev University,

Kazakhstan.

Sir, – As a matter of plain language, “mandatory guidelines” on building heights are a contradiction in terms.

There is no definition of “guidelines” which allows compulsion.

The Orwellian nature of the language obscures the intrusion by the Minister into the discretion previously afforded to An Bord Pleanála. – Yours, etc,

Dr JOHN DOHERTY,

Vienna.

Sir, – With the exception of two specific things, being Johnny Ronan’s vision for Dublin and how he might profit from it, and a shadow possibly being cast by one of his buildings on the Custom House, I wonder what is Frank McDonald’s point?

He has been banging on about city living for 30 years, and when it is presented as an option, he is against it! – Yours, etc,

BARRY LYONS,

Rathgar,

Dublin 6.