Top 5 Sustainable Skyscrapers of the Future

When you close your eyes and imagine sustainable cities of the future, do you see skyscrapers? Many equate these massive towers as a symbol of everything that’s wrong with our society–bloated cities, rampant development, unchecked energy consumption–but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Forward-thinking designers envision skyscrapers that could actually live in harmony with nature while improving our connection to it at the same time. In fact some even think skyscrapers could actually improve nature itself.

eVolo, an architecture and design journal focused on technological advances, sustainability and innovative design, hosts an annual competition to recognize outstanding ideas for vertical living. The winners for 2013 were recently announced, and every single one is a jaw-dropper.

So, we’ve rounded up the top five for your browsing enjoyment.

Keep in mind that these are conceptual only! None have been through any sort of feasibility study or prototyping. They may in fact include technologies that do not yet exist. But isn’t it fun to dream? After all, that phone in your pocket was only a dream just a few short decades ago.

5. Jellyfish-like Ph Conditioner Skyscraper

future sustainable skyscraper, evolo

Designers: Hao Tian, Huang Haiyang, Shi Jianwei Country: China

The project aims to gently manage Acid Deposition and eventually turn pollutants into available resources (reclaimed water & chemical fertilizer) for the region of Chongqing. The designers envision buildings with jellyfish-like balloons full of hydrogen gas attached, hovering nearly 700 feet in the air. The balloons would transform acid pollutants into neutral liquid with ammonium salt which would be absorbed by plants connected by tentacle pipelines. The remaining liquid would be delivered to the building’s central terminal tank as the source of reclaimed water. This design won an honorable mention. See more here.


4. VolcanElectric Mask I Volcano Skyscraper

evolo, volcano, skyscraper

Designers: Jing Hao, Zhanou Zhang, Xingyue Chen, Jiangyue Han, Shuo Zhou Country: China

The designers of the VolcanElectric Mask I propose constructing an industrial structure over a volcano that can collect tephra during an eruption, keeping it out of the skies and away from cities and villages below, and also harness the power from the volcano’s heat in calm periods to provide clean electric power to surrounding areas. This design won an honorable mention. See more here.


3. Light Park Floating Skyscraper


Designers: Ting Xu, Yiming Chen Country: China

The rapid increase of population within the major cities around the world has led to poor development and serious urban design problems, including the lack of infrastructure, housing and recreational areas. In Beijing, a large portion of the historic center has been demolished.

The Light Park stays afloat thanks to a large, mushroom cap-like helium-filled balloon at its top, and solar-powered propellers directly below. Programmatic platforms that host parks, sports fields, green houses, restaurants and other areas are suspended from the top of the structure by reinforced steel cables; the platforms fan in different directions around the spherical vessel to balance its weight. These slabs are also staggered to allow for maximum exposure to sunlight on each level.

Translucent solar panels cover the top of the vessel to power the uses below, and water collectors, also located at the top, direct precipitation towards filters that send clean water throughout the structure. This design won 3rd place. See more here.


2. Phobia Skyscraper

Designers: Darius Maïkoff, Elodie Godo Country: France

The Phobia Skyscraper is a new form of modular suburban residential development for Paris, France. It is located over the “Petite Ceinture,” a former industrial site with excellent views of the city and an extensive transportation network.

Two main ground slabs and an empty tower structure, constructed of recycled industrial materials, hold prefabricated units that are stacked to utilize the same plumbing system but are rotated to open to outdoor spaces. The units are grouped around outdoor common green spaces.

These common areas, or “nuclei centers,” are equipped with displays that provide real-time feedback for residents on societal issues within the community, occupancy rates of the structure, and messages. It also contains water-collection equipment and solar power panels. This design won 2nd place. See more here.


1. Polar Umbrella Buoyant Skyscraper

Designer: Derek Pirozzi Country: USA

Rebuilding the arctic layers is the primary objective of this proposal which cools down the Earth’s surface by reducing heat gain in vulnerable arctic regions.

Through its desalinization and power facilities, this arctic skyscraper could become a floating metropolis equipped with research laboratories, renewable power stations, dormitory-style housing units, eco-tourist attractions, and ecological habitats for wildlife.

Salt water would be used to produce a renewable source of energy through an osmotic (salinity gradient power) power facility housed within the building’s core. In addition, the structure’s immense canopy allows for the reduction of heat gain on the arctic surface while harvesting solar energy. The umbrella’s thermal skin boasts a series of modules that are composed of a polyethylene piping system that pumps brackish water. Finally, the Polar Umbrella also regenerates the ice caps using harvest chambers that freeze the ocean water. This design won 1st place. See more here.


Related Reading:

Bright Lights of Big Cities are Heating Up The Globe

One Of The Tallest Buildings In The World Gets A Green Roof

Bike-Friendly Cities: It Can Happen Here


Top Image: Skinscape via Evolo 2013 Skyscraper Competition


Laura Saxon
.4 years ago

Great article, Beth. Thanks for sharing. That would be interesting to see.

Bornita Quader
Bornita Quader4 years ago

None of them seem realistic to me.

Freida Vb
G Vb4 years ago

The Polar Umbrella which uses salt water as a source of renewable energy through osmosis is a grand idea. With the canopy design limiting the entry of heat, plus the advantage of regenerating the ice caps to freeze the ocean water, this is one model for a feasible sustainable skyscraper.

Veronique L.
Veronique L4 years ago

They are all tremendously ugly!

Veronique L.
Veronique L4 years ago

Agree with you, Mary W.!

Darcie Busch
Darcie Busch4 years ago

All of these seem just a little scary except for the polar umbrella buoyant skyscaper. That one is pretty cool. No wonder it won 1st place.

James Fisher

Very Interesting.

Ben Oscarsito
Ben O4 years ago

Hmmm....I won't see any of those in my lifetime, that's for sure!

Sonia Minwer-Barakat Requ
Sonia M4 years ago

Amazing ideas.Thanks for sharing

John Ditchman
John Ditchman4 years ago

Far from being a sign of growing populations and urban dystopias, Skyscrapers can be a great way to decrease the human footprint - fewer farmers are needed to feed our population, more than 50% of all people live in cities, so let's decrease the footprint size of a city. Each building would be covered in thin-layer solar cells. Using the chimney effect, central air shafts could have rotors to act as wind turnbines inside the building (no depending on winds). Gutters on the faces of the building would catch rainwater for reuse in the building. It wouldn't be hard to make a desirable and sustainable cityscape.