Ever wondered what is a “supertall building” and how that differs from a “megatall” tower?
The Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat classify a “supertall” as a building more than 300 meters high. Double that number and you have “megatalls”, anything over 600 meters.
The tallest building in the City of Vancouver is the Shangri-La which has 62 storeys and 201 meters in vertical height, Completed in 2009, that building is not having happy strata meetings as reported by Joanne Lee-Young of the Vancouver Sun. A Westbank development built by Ledcor it appears there is some heat stress fractures in the windows that can cause the windows to instantaneously shatter, which could be a problem to passing pedestrians or users of the tower’s pool area.
But that may be small change to pay for a luxurious address, as Stefanos Chen reports in The New York Times. New York City’s 432 Park Avenue building is so tall it needed approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The 426 meter tower 432 Park Avenue in New York City has had six years of occupancy and a host of million dollar problems. These include “millions of dollars of water damage from plumbing and mechanical issues; frequent elevator malfunctions; and walls that creak like the galley of a ship — all of which may be connected to the building’s main selling point: its immense height.”
The building which sold out at 3.1 billion American dollars has a 96 floor penthouse that sold for 88 million dollars.The clientele of this building are the type that want to conserve their real estate equity but at the same time get the nasty problems fixed.
The developers exploited a loophole to get such a tall building~they installed many “mechanical floors”, which are not counted into a building’s allowable floor space high up in the tower. Indeed those mechanical floors count for one quarter of the building’s height. Those mechanical rooms are also responsible for several broken water feeds and a water line failure which rendered half of the building’s elevators useless.
But it is the weather dynamics of taller buildings and how it plays out in a supertall tower that is interesting. Towers do flex in the wind, and they can cause elevator cables to bang, trapping occupants inside. And like a hull of a sailing ship under sail, the walls groan as the building sways, and air whistles around door openings and elevator shafts. Counterweights are installed in walls to dampen that sway. But you can imagine the structure’s noise and internal wind can be disconcerting to residents.
Unlike Vancouver’s Shangri-La that has cleared a path forward to sue the developer and the contractor, 432 Park increased strata fees 40 per cent two years ago and still saw building insurance costs triple in two years. Two incidents of water damage cost the strata owners 9.7 million dollars in one year, thankfully covered by insurance.
There are further strata owner costs to cover a private restaurant which was a selling feature. That culinary perk cost strata owners $1,200 annually six years ago; now that cost is $15,000.
In a building that is not permanently inhabited year round, 40 percent of owners commissioned a study of what was happening to the structure of the building. The study showed that 73 percent of mechanical, electrical and plumbing components observed failed to conform with the developers’ drawings, and that almost a quarter “presented actual life safety issues.”
You can read a more annotated version of the problems with 432 Park Avenue in this article from Surface magazine. As Ryan Waddoups coyly observes “If you missed the damning New York Times exposé of what it’s like to live in Manhattan’s 432 Park Avenue, you’re in for gleeful schadenfreude”
The executive director of Landmark West! a preservation group stated “I was in architecture school on 9/11. We watched the towers fall. There were all sorts of symposiums and public statements that we’re never going to build [that] tall again. All we’ve done in the 20 years since is build even taller.”
The two YouTube videos below showcase NYC’s 432 Park Avenue as the tallest residential building, and the penthouse of Vancouver’s Shangri-La which sold in the twenty million dollar range.