By now we’re all accustomed to the glassy and glossy skylines of many northern cities, with glass monoliths popping up all over Vancouver, Toronto, and other major metropolises.

But recently Lisa Rochan at The Globe and Mail weighed in on what effect sky-high glass towers are having on our environment, after Ted Lesik’s recent attack on the 82-story Aqua Tower in Chicago.

While they may reflect one heck of a sunset, buildings produce as much as 48 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in North America and consume 68 per cent of electricity.That means that the buildings we’ve come to covet and love could be heating our planets and causing irreversible damage.

“Especially wasteful are glass towers, many of which also use inferior-quality window-wall systems that can start to leak after just five years. Imagine the technology of cars or computers regressing – rather than advancing – by fifty years. That’s the architectural monster that has been created with glass towers,” notes Rochan.

So exactly how long can these buildings last before we start to see some serious effects? Kesik predicts only 15-20 years, causing massive (and incredibly expensive) problems retrofitting them, likely resulting in complete evacuation of the towers.

Rochan recommends that citizens push for sustainable and superior design that has its eye on the environment and long-term risks and benefits. And the chains might already be in motion with Ontario’s updated Building Code — one that doles out heavy penalties for buildings with cladding of more than 40% glass.

There are certainly trends in Europe showing that sustainable and attractive buildings are feasible. What do you think? Are the towers worth the environmental trauma, or should we be looking at new models?

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