Vertical living architecture can help save the world

With 75% of the world’s population projected to live in cities within the next 50 years, city planning needs urgent improvement

Yahya Jan, president and design director for the Dubai-based architecture and engineering firm, Norr.
Yahya Jan, president and design director for the Dubai-based architecture and engineering firm, Norr.
Yahya Jan, president and design director for the Dubai-based architecture and engineering firm, Norr.
Yahya Jan, president and design director for the Dubai-based architecture and engineering firm, Norr.

There is a “tremendous” innovation deficit in the global construction industry, and deviation from the norms of design and building remain rare,  Norr’s president told an audience at the CW: Leaders in Construction Summit UAE 2018 in Dubai on 12 September.

Yahya Jan, who is also the design director for the Dubai-based group, added that this deficit extended to the design industry, as well as to development.

“The median projection for next 50 years is that there is going to be 10.5 billion people on the planet,” he told the audience. He added that within that period, 81% of the world’s population was projected to live in Asia and Africa, up 5% on today’s figures. That same timeframe, he continued, would also see 75% of the world’s population living in cities – a significant 20% jump from the current figure of 55%.

“How we are developing our cities is less than desirable,” he said, despite conceding that greater innovation was starting to take place within both the design and the construction sectors.

“There are some model developments like Expo 2020 Dubai, where developers are saying the regular way is not good enough. But these developments are very rare and few and far between.

He added: “Great design can save the world. But it is going to take a particular kind of mindset.

“When I take on a design task, I [try to make sure I] ask all the dumb questions, because I believe that the early decisions in design have the greatest impact,” he continued.

“If you make the right early decisions, you actually benefit over the life span of the design,” he stated, noting that designers are often “happy to do what someone else has done because it is tried and tested”.

Touching on the topic of climate change during the design process, Jan said that it was time for the industry as a whole to “reconsider how we design, and how we build”.

“That challenge is not just for designers. It is for everyone – from developers, to governments that create policies, through to technologists.”

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