Civil engineering involves the art of shaping our world. The choices that engineers make in designing and constructing buildings and infrastructure have a profound impact on communities.
In this article, we are going to look to fundamental approaches in the design and construction of buildings. These approaches are vertical expansion and horizontal expansion, and they determine key aspects of a building such as its cost and functionality, as discussed below.
Vertical expansion, often referred to as “building up,” is a design and construction approach that allows us to maximize the use of limited space in urban areas. This strategy is especially popular in densely populated cities.
Think of famous tall buildings like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Empire State Building in New York City. These are perfect examples of going up high in the sky to make the most of limited space. They have lots of offices, apartments, and cool things inside, all packed into a small area.
- Space Efficiency
- Potential for Better Views
- Preservation of Ground Space
- Reduced Utility Costs per square metre (especially heating and cooling)
- Structural Challenges
- Limited Outdoor Space
- Higher Construction Costs
- Elevator Costs
- Longer Construction Timelines
- Permitting Challenges
Horizontal expansion, also known as “building out,” focuses on spreading structures horizontally across the landscape. It offers more space for open layouts and green areas.
Horizontal expansion is ideal for projects where the land cost is relative low compared to the cost building upwards. Building out is also commonly used where it creates benefits of cost and functionality. For example, buildings in universities are often limited to a few floors to avoid the cost of installing lifts as the number of users are many, and therefore, to create more space for functionality building out is a good idea.
- Lower Construction Costs
- Lower Construction Complexity
- Parking and Outdoor Spaces
- Reduced Maintenance Costs
- Easier Permitting
- Land Costs
- Environmental Impact
- Lack of Views
- Increased Utility Costs per square metre
Understanding of the benefits of each these two approaches is key when planning and design new infrastructure. While the decision on which approach is taken will be high influenced by the client or developer, as engineer or designer you should provide some advice. Ultimately, the choice depends on location, budget, environmental considerations, and project-specific requirements, all with the goal of creating functional, efficient, and sustainable spaces for our communities.
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