According to experts, the benefits of vertical city development as an urban design concept, rethinks horizontal living where normal cities are made up of hundreds of buildings, vertical cities would be a few slender buildings standing hundreds of stories high.
With finite space and a growing human population, the natural direction of cities is ever upward as architects, developers, and urban planners think toward higher urban environments. The current trend is to create large, multifunctional buildings (MFBs), most typically combining residential, hotel, and retail functions.
It is argued that no true vertical city exists, however, the concept of vertical city development has the potential to create sustainable and dignified life for all. A vertical city is designed to provide all of the necessary functions that a city typically possesses, including recreational and free public spaces, social and governmental services, education, energy, as well as food production.
Currently, about 40 per cent of the continent’s one billion people live in cities and towns; and it is estimated that in the next few years, some African cities will be home to as much as 85per cent of their country’s population. Statistics also show that by 2030 the middle class in Sub-Saharan Africa will more than triple, to an estimated 107 million people.
Despite the geometrical increase in population, housing delivery rates across the continent are insufficient to meet this growing demand, and in most cases the available housing is unaffordable to the vast majority. As a result, a larger part of Africa’s urban population continues to live in inadequate housing.
This development, has further worsened existing housing deficit put at between 18 million and 23 million and many housing experts believe that a housing model like vertical city development could be the missing link, especially in urban area like Lagos, where about eighty-seven people per hour entered on daily basis thereby posing unplanned pressures on land and housing infrastructural facilities and increasing number of slums in the state.
The state Commissioner for Housing, Prince Gbolahan Lawal recently noted that high migration had left the state with about three million units of housing deficit.
To curtail such rising deficits in the housing stocks, they are recommending the adoption of vertical city development because of its numerous benefits.
Immediate past President of Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Anyaeji Otis told The Guardian that there are no other ways to solve the issue of housing deficit than adoption of vertical city development.
He said: “ if you don’t adopt this vertical city development, then what we want to do is to keep building bungalows stretching out over long distances .You will find out that one of the immediate problems is that it is not easy to extend basic infrastructures to all those distances .
“Take electricity for example, to do basic installation in a whole quarters in a town, the entire development of that quarter can be put on the street and in a town for example in Lagos but if you were doing vertical city development, that is something like what you have in 1004 , if you were doing that consistently and with good planning, then Lagos as it is today would have been contained maybe in 1/ 20th of the size of its land that is being used now”, he said.
According to Otis, what that means is that the roads that is needed to service will be less, the cables that are needed to distribute electricity externally will be less, while the piping that is needed to also carry through the water will be less.
“All that, he said, will translate to more sufficient infrastructure for the people that will be there. When these amenities are extended to the new location they can cover almost 50 kilometres inside the city and one has to distribute all these infrastructures to those place even though external infrastructure is quite expensive to do”, he added.
But Dr. Taibat Lawanson of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Lagos said the phase part of planning required identifying those who are to benefit from the plan. The decision to go up, she said will eventually be determined by the local circumstances that go around the environment .
While expressing her support for the agitation, Lawanson said, her support is based on principle but expressed doubt that available infrastructure can support it adding that the most important thing is to provide the right infrastructure before the decision is made on the conceptual change from what the societies are accustomed to.
In his views, the National President of Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP); Luka Achi explained that vertical city developments are ideas that crop up as a result of growing land shortages in most cities stressing that it is a way to conserve land.
He however, noted that the without technology, integrity of structure, regular power supply and other infrastructure, its adoption could amount to a waste of time.
“Most buildings in Nigeria are yet to have 40-storey sky scrapper condensed in one-land. Cultural belief among the people might hinder such an idea. The people might complain of building on their head. However, it is a matter of time, we might have to change into such plan in Nigeria. At least there was a time when we were using donkeys but now we use cars and aeroplane”, he said.
For the first Vice-President, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Mr. Kunle Awobodu, there is the need to define and understand the rationale for adopting such city development model. According to him, in a place with high population density but very low landmass, the only natural alternative is to go vertical to maximize the available limited land.
“That is why in some places like Lagos Island, Victoria Island, Ikoyi, buildings are going vertical so automatic and it is not something to therefore debate on because when the land is too expensive, you must learn to make full use of the land. If you don’t go vertical, the value of land will not be commensurate with the housing unit on the land”
He warned that when such housing development is to be embarked on, there is the need for economic reviews and projections by financial analysts or professionals to justify how lucrative, the investment would be.
“Where we should feel more concerned are areas where people are still constructing bungalows or two-floors when they should have anticipated that in a matter four of five years, the value of such areas would be very high”. For example, the housing estate at Otedola areas of Lagos, most of the buildings is bungalows, which were an error, and the people did not anticipate the future value of the land. They could have gone vertical if they do. Similar error was committed in Surulere also called the new Lagos. Designing bungalows for an area reputed for high demand, amounts to short changing the adequate population in that area”, he explained.
Awobodu stressed that Nigeria has peculiar environmental challenges like poor infrastructure; technology, power supply, prompt fire extinguishers services in case of fire accident, and the needed expertise.
“A building that has 21 floors, from the fourth floor such building supposed to have elevator regrettably, you will just discovered that the elevator might not be functional especially considering the cost of regular maintenance and the poor power supply hi-cups. That is problem with vertical developments. It also supposes to have adequate fire extinguisher that would cover the situation”.
“It requires some embellished technology and more difficult to construct. Also, we need to ask the question of affordability, can Nigeria really afford it, in terms of the cost of scaffolding, painting annually and so on? Those are the factors that could doubt the preparedness for vertical city development. Nigeria has the technology for that model in terms of technology transfer we can always copy from other more developed parts of the world”, he said.
Speaking on the cultural side to the development, he emphasised that Africans are never used to high-rise buildings but, he noted that modernization has made a place like Onitsha, Anambra state Nigeria, to become known for high-rise buildings especially among some segment of the population who used as a sort of competition and a thing of pride as well as to register their economic status/level of sophistication in the society.