Pros and cons to high-rise living

25 Sep 2018 / 07:08 H.

    WITH the rapid increase in urban population, cities around the world are resorting to high-rise residential buildings to cater to the increasing demand for shelter.
    Malaysia is no exception. For the last 20 years or so, more and more Malaysians have been living in high-rise residences, especially where urban land is scarce and expensive.
    In the past, there were hardly any high-rise residential buildings taller than 10 floors. But now, there are buildings as high as 50 storeys or more, especially in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Penang, and increasingly in Johor Baru.
    High-rise housing includes multi-storey low cost flats, such as the People Housing Projects for the poor and low-medium cost apartments. Many young adults who have just started working can only afford to buy or rent this form of housing.
    Increasingly, developers are building medium-cost, high-rise housing for young urban professionals who have just started families and elderly residents who value their amenities and convenience.
    There are also luxury condominiums with state-of-the-art facilities targeting wealthy locals and foreigners. These luxury high-rises provide not just shelter, but are also status symbols to those who own them.
    Government authorities, developers, planners and architects need to work hand-in-hand to create more liveable high-rise developments to satisfy peoples' needs. They must be close to transportation hubs and urban amenities such as shops and restaurants, with proximity to nature and enough shared outdoor space for children to play.
    There are pros and cons of high-rise living, just like everything has its good and bad sides. The plus points are, of course, the views, cleaner air, resort-style living and 24-hour security.
    The whole family can go away for holidays without worry. In addition, there is less maintenance work and household chores compared with landed homes.
    High-rise living can also be a more sustainable option for urban residents because they take up less space and enable shared resources such as common water, sewer, and electrical infrastructure. Well-planned high-rise developments can help ensure the success of public transportation routes, and vice-versa.
    The worst fear of living in high-rises is of fires. It is crucial that local authorities ensure that all high-rise buildings conform to the required building codes, fire regulations and safety standards, with proper equipment and evacuation plans. The fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower in London last year was a devastating reminder of what can happen even in relatively well-planned cities.
    Studies have also shown the adverse psychological effect of people living in high-rises. Many tend to live in isolation and have fewer social interactions with their neighbours.
    Furthermore, it is not always ideal to raise children in high-rise apartments as there is a lack of space.
    Kids should not be allowed to play on narrow balconies high off the ground. Ample shared play spaces should be provided for children.
    Those who opt to live in high-rises should realise the responsibilities of living together in a physically enclosed space. When hundreds of people share a building under one roof, it is necessary to have rules and regulations and standards of behaviour in order to facilitate peaceful and harmonious living.
    Besides the best practices that should be followed by developers, planners, and architects, and the rules and regulations that are set by local authorities, high-rise residents can contribute to a better environment by observing some etiquette guidelines – simple do's and don't's.
    Residents should strive to be considerate and cooperative neighbours. They should keep the noise down (especially chilly pounders, karaoke lovers, and late-night partiers). They should be responsible for their pets and clean up after them. They should keep common areas and shared facilities clean and orderly.
    Residents should take part in the community and get to know their neighbours. They can start by simply being friendly to others.
    A simple "Hello" goes a long way. They can also participate in events organised by the building management, such as the annual general meetings, or social gatherings and exercise workouts.
    Most importantly, residents should avoid actions that might endanger themselves and others. Many would remember the tragedy of a 15-year-old boy who died after being hit by an office chair thrown out of an upper floor of a Pantai Dalam flat early this year. Residents must not throw things out of windows.
    They should not obstruct hallways and fire exits. And they should be careful about heavy objects placed on window ledges and balconies.
    Such reasonable rules and common etiquette will ensure that high-rise living provides a healthy, friendly and liveable environment.
    Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee is interested in urban governance, housing and urban planning. Comments:

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