It is almost a staple for cities to have skyscrapers and tall building structures. Tall buildings hold a lot to offer in the productive use of the environment and more to citizens living in those cities. Moreover, traversing that city landscape and accessing its available resources contributes to a sense of autonomy and confidence. Interacting actively with the immediate environment is empowering. This empowerment comes from knowing the flexibility and feeling to control in the immediate environment. However, despite tall structures’ benefits, they contribute to the psychological and biological imbalances that impede wellness by the ultimate feedback loop to the metabolic syndrome.
Tall or high-rising structures can reduce walkability with affect the metabolic equilibrium. Tall structures can be categorized as any structure that has more than five levels because research has shown that “until the fifth floor, people, on the ground [floor] can neither be recognized nor contacted” (Verhaeghe et al., 2016). However, there have not been concrete data that leads to the conclusion that tall buildings have detrimental effects—more precisely, living in them. The study by Verhaeghe et al. (2016) refutes the central idea that living in high buildings negatively impacts health but also suggests a subtle negative association between people living on lower floors and higher floors as self-rated health decreases with the increase in the floor. However, this association, though present, is not significant. Following this inferred establishment of what can be considered a high-rising structure (more than four floors), knowing how It impacts walkability is one essential foundational. Walkability is the ease of maneuvering within the neighborhood and is “considered a sustainable low-carbon form of mobility” (Birenboim et al., 2021). Being able to walk and feeling the ease of walking promotes interaction with the immediate environment. Tall or high-rising structures (greater than four floors) tend to generate wind tunnels on the ground floor as winds hitting buildings tend to become twisted.
This twist often creates windy areas affecting pedestrian-level wind (PLW) and causing discomfort to pedestrians (Weerasuriya et al., 2018).
With this discomfort in the walkable areas, regardless of whether they are accounted for in the urban cities where tall or high-rising structures often dominate, there will be a psychological aversion to walking and more to driving or commuting to a more comfortable area in a study by Colom et al. (2021) where they examined how walkability through physical activity. They found that higher neighborhood walkability correlates with increased physical activity duration, which helps maintain the overweight and obese senior adults with metabolic syndrome. Furthermore, using the immediate environment helps create better bodily involvement, which helps the mind and increases physical activity and wellbeing (Zuniga-Teran et al., 2017). Regarding the wind tunnels, the number of resources and effort to commute to a more walkable space can often be discouraging when there is so much to do with the entertainment that is only fingers away. Even without factoring in this psychological aversion, the discomfort the wind tunnels create inhibits the ease of interaction and flexibility of the facilities and resources available. This outcome is crucial, as one study found “that access to facilities and pedestrian infrastructure are important” (Cao et al., 2019). To further expand and illustrate how all these contribute to the metabolic syndrome ultimately affecting wellbeing, we must first briefly understand the metabolic pathway and possible causes. Metabolic syndrome is the combination of risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing heart attacks, strokes, and Type 2 diabetes. In the context of the detrimental effects of tall or high-rising structures on walkability, there is an increased risk of all these factors. As most food can be easily ordered with a couple of taps on the phone or computer and the allure of unhealthy food due to cost and taste as well as having the adverse determination to walk in the immediate environment, there will be a chain reaction. As there will be an affinity to decrease physical activity or walkability– derived from the logical flow previously stated—they will be reduced use of the sugar level in the blood, increasing the overall sugar level. This increase in sugar level induces more response or stress on the pancreas to create more insulin. This increased insulin production causes an increased likelihood of malfunctioning insulin produced by the pancreas, resulting in the normal biological response to shut down insulin production. The lack of insulin clearing up the excess buildup of glucose (sugar) in the blood result in them being transported to the brain. This excess glucose in the neuron causes neurotoxicity and neural apoptosis. This distribution in the neural community function affects mood, behavior, and overall wellbeing.
In conclusion, though tall structures allow for a more efficient use of land that can create and enhance the efficient use of land, there are also adverse effects that are ultimately counterproductive to the effectiveness of output production. Tall structures subconsciously impede on ability to walk from the discomfort created by wind in the pedestrian-level wind which decreases the drive to walk and be physically active. This decrease in activity adds to the metabolic disequilibrium in the blood contributing to the excess sugar toxicity to the neurons and brain which overall negatively affect the overall wellbeing. This is also not even factoring the encroaching intimidation to a small pedestrian walking and trying to maneuver within the network tall structural buildings.
Ẹniọlá Adoeye-Lawal, Intern, IASIS NGO
- Birenboim, A., Ben-Nun Bloom, P., Levit, H., & Omer, I. (2021). The study of walking, walkability and wellbeing in immersive virtual environments. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(2), 364.
- Cao, Y., Heng, C. K., & Fung, J. C. (2019). Using walk-along interviews to identify environmental factors influencing older adults’ out-of-home behaviors in a high-rise, high- density neighborhood. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(21), 4251.
- Colom, A., Mavoa, S., Ruiz, M., Wärnberg, J., Muncunill, J., Konieczna, J., … & Romaguera, D. (2021). Neighbourhood walkability and physical activity: moderating role of a physical activity intervention in overweight and obese older adults with metabolic syndrome. Age and ageing, 50(3), 963-968.
- Weerasuriya, A. U., Tse, K. T., Zhang, X., & Li, S. W. (2018). A wind tunnel study of effects of twisted wind flows on the pedestrian-level wind field in an urban environment. Building and environment, 128, 225-235.
- Verhaeghe, P. P., Coenen, A., & Van de Putte, B. (2016). Is living in a high-rise building bad for your self-rated health?. Journal of urban health, 93, 884-898.
- Zuniga-Teran, A. A., Orr, B. J., Gimblett, R. H., Chalfoun, N. V., Guertin, D. P., & Marsh, S. E. (2017). Neighborhood design, physical activity, and wellbeing: Applying the walkability model. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(1), 76.