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Are these Manhattan towers the future of sustainable design?

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A Dallas-based architecture firm has released a conceptual proposal packed with drone landing areas, micro homes and more

Via Humphreys and Partners Architects

What if two soaring towers rose on the southern tip of Manhattan, packed with micro units, with greenery running up the height of the buildings, and armed with landing pads for flying cars? To some that may sound like a feverish sci-fi dream, but for architecture firm Humphreys and Partners Architects, it’s just one way of addressing the problems many big cities face today.

The firm presented this conceptual proposal, known as Pier 2: Apartment of the Future, at the 2018 International Builders’ Show, held in Orlando, Florida, earlier this year. Every few years, the firm’s research and development team is tasked with coming up with a proposal that addresses the ongoing challenges faced by big cities, the vice president of design at the firm, Walter Hughes, explained to Curbed on a recent telephone call.

This time around, the firm was grappling with issues like the lack of affordable housing, the decrease in parking spaces, the rise of drone technology, and the need for more sustainable architecture.

Pier 2 is an amalgam of all these concerns; at first glance the buildings appear to be a futuristic vision of NYC’s latest pricey condo development, but Hughes said the proposal incorporates modular technology to build micro affordable apartments, with many sections of the project being setup for co-living.

These apartments would be fitted with photovoltaic glass, which reduces energy consumption by up to 34 percent, according to the firm. Other sustainable elements in the building include wind turbines located under the upper platform connecting the two towers, that would be used to power the homes; vertical farming; the use of solar panels; and the use of tidal power through the Hudson River.

Though the architecture firm didn’t pick a specific site in Manhattan, the ideal location for the firm would be somewhere near South Ferry, with one tower sitting on the island, and the second tower sitting on a platform above the Hudson River.

The towers would be connected by two platforms, with the one on the lower level having both vertical and horizontal elevators to allow rapid connections between both sides of the building. These platforms would also house the development’s amenities like a swimming pool, a fitness center, restaurants, a pet spa, and of course landing space for drones. The architecture firm envisions that the base of the development would have an Amazon Go-type store and co-working spaces.

So how realistic is any of this? Hughes explained that the technology for much of this development is already in place, but that legislation hadn’t yet caught up to allow for such a project. He is hopeful however that that will change in the coming decade.

“We may have all this technology and the ability to build sustainably, but we still need to build homes for people to live in,” said Hughes. “We always need to keep that in mind.”