Moratorium on High-Rises

Moratorium on High-Rises Moratorium on High-Rises

The Supreme Council for Urban Planning and Architecture recently approved a bill that puts a moratorium on high-rise construction in Tehran till such time that it determines the proper neighborhoods and locations for tall structures.

In other words, the Tehran Municipality (TM) has lost one of its most important sources of revenue, as ‘permit sales’ for buildings was apparently the biggest source of income for the TM with almost 80% of its revenues accruing from construction permits – a policy that has virtually turned the capital into a jungle of steel monsters and tall towers in tiny lanes in the upscale districts.

The council is expected to permanently ban skyscraper construction in 18 neighborhoods in the city. Also, the ceiling on the number of building floors in neighborhoods where high rises would be permitted will be 13, 14, 20 and 40, depending on the location.

Eqbal Shakeri, head of the Transportation Committee of the Tehran City Council, said according to the bill, the council, which has the mandate to study and approve urbanization plans, has been given the responsibility to investigate the impact of building heights on wind flow, with the cooperation of the Department of Environment (DoE) and Iran Meteorological Organization (IMO).

“It also should ascertain the proper locations for future high-rise construction projects,” Khabaronline quoted him as saying.

“Further, the TM should not issue construction permits before the official investigation of the council into high rises is complete,” he added.

According to the latest regulations of the urban planning watchdog, the total construction area of tall buildings in Tehran should be over 2500 square meters, and the number of floors should not exceed 40.

It may be recalled that President Hassan Rouhani had directed the council to make recommendations to address the problem of high-rises in the overcrowded capital, especially on the western flanks of the city and District 22.

Rouhani had asked the council to offer solutions for high-rise buildings and towers built in the way of air transport corridors which reduce wind movement and hinder the dispersion of traffic-related air pollutants.

“If there is no solution for the buildings already constructed, at least from now on high- rise construction in these areas should be banned,” the president had said.

  Permit Exploitation

Prior to the bill’s approval by the council, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf had announced in a live TV interview that he is ready to halt the TM’s practice of ‘permit selling’, perhaps not expecting that it would actually happen so soon given that the TM had been basking in the “sale of building permits” through which it generated unusually huge amounts as the unbridled construction continued with absolutely nothing to worry about.

Since two decades, thanks to the municipality’s insatiable thirst for alternative means of revenue, Tehran has been turned into a gigantic construction zone, with high-rises coming up at terrible speed in place of older buildings bulldozed overnight. The TM had no inhibitions in allowing the city to expand vertically, in order to earn more revenue “to meet the unending financial needs” of the metropolis now home to more than ten million people and still expanding.

With the council’s decision, the construction of high-rise buildings, which government officials say is one of the main culprits for Tehran’s worsening air pollution, population density and traffic congestion, has come to a halt, at least for now.

Skyscrapers in District 22 (west Tehran), District 1 (north Tehran) and District 6 (central part of the city) have been banned following approval of the bill.

High-rises, in particular in District 22 have created several problems, as wind flow (or the bulk movement of air) in the city is always from the western part to the eastern areas; so the buildings hinder wind flow in urban space.

Air pollution in Tehran over the years has emerged as a major source of concern for the residents. Air quality hovered at dangerous levels for weeks together in autumn and now in winter.

Besides hindering fresh air flow, tall buildings contribute to increasing congestion and reduce access to sunlight. When driving through the small lanes and tiny alleys in the posh northern suburbs one always wonders based on what studies and what urbanization law were all these huge towers allowed.