Back in those days, we had small houses in villages and knew our neighbours. The ladies would be friendly and the kids would play together. But when we moved to jobs in urban areas, and the population also grew, we lived in apartments, usually no bigger than two-four floors, with bathrooms, halls and kitchens. Yet, we maintained friendly contacts with other residents and their families on most of the floors, and also knew the local vegetable sellers and groceries stores. Alas, with the steep rise in urban population, where many residents live in high-rise apartments, work from home using computers, or go to work, this meeting and companionship has slowly disappeared. We may at best know families on the same floor. And many of us would rather get our daily needs through Apps such as Zomato and Amazon!
With the massive growth of IT and drug companies, new high-rise buildings have come up with 45 or 50 floors, not only in cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad, but even in tier-two cities. The residents living in them do not even know neighbours on the same floor. Interpersonal contacts have become far less than in previous times.
An article titled “7 reasons why high-rises kill livability” details the downside of this lifestyle. Let me summarise their messages below.
High-rises separate people from the street. Residents there do not know the vegetable and grocery vendors, do not get to see the activities and excitement in the streets, but only learn about these second-hand, through newspapers and media reports. Interpersonal contact, essential for a society, is lost. It is people and societies that make living fun. High-rise residents are in a world of their own, almost like astronauts!
Higher carbon impact
High-rises with 45-60 floors lead to ‘gentrification’ and inequality, while ‘low/mid-rises’ offer resilience and affordability. Dr S.H.C. Lennard of the “Making cities livable international council” points out that tall buildings offer increased profits for real estate developers, who like to develop taller buildings with luxury floors and apartments. On the other hand, a smaller four-five floor building is more on the human scale, and is twined to the society and its changing resilience. Mr. Lennard points out that the City of Paris in France, with buildings no more than six floors or 37 meters tall, supports continuous retail along the street, making every neighbourhood walkable. High-rises also have a much higher carbon impact from greenhouse gases over their life cycles compared to densely populated low-rise neighbourhoods with an equal number of people.
In this connection, the psychologist Dr D. Cappon had pointed out (Canada Journal of Public Health, 1971) that high-rise buildings deprive their residents of walking and exercising down the ground, and the children from playing with neighbourhood peers. In effect, high-rise buildings are not good for the health of its people. So, let us not build Empire State Buildings, or Burj Khalifas, but Parisian houses!