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Tall buildings could yield unexpected career opportunities

How often does it cross your mind that if only you could pinpoint the next big trend in architecture your future would be secure? There is nothing particularly mysterious about, say, computer rendering or space planning, yet Hayes Davidson and DEGW have made good money out of these disciplines because they had the vision - or good fortune - to grasp the opportunity when the time was right.

Those who are kicking themselves for missing the boat in the past would be well advised to consider reinventing themselves as experts on environmental impact studies. Last week, RIBA president-elect Paul Hyett suggested that all planning applications should be accompanied by an environmental report. This week, in the wake of the AJ's 'Tall Storeys?'conference, SAVE has argued that any proposed tower should be accompanied by an environmental report, which, crucially, should be written by an independent party.

The developer foots the bill, but should not be able to edit the content. It stands to reason that the architects or environmental engineers involved should not carry out the study either, making the independent environmental impact assessor an essential part of the food chain.

What would the job entail? A thorough understanding of architecture's environmental attributes and impact - specialist stuff, but the kind of knowledge that should increasingly be an integral part of any architect's skills. In addition, SAVE suggests that reports concerned with tall buildings should cover such factors as shadowing and microclimate (especially down draughts created around high-rise buildings) and should be accompanied by rigorous wind tunnel tests to determine the impact on neighbouring streets and open spaces. It also demands an ability to present findings in an accessible way, to build up a rapport with developers and to understand the needs of planners. All of which should prove invaluable when the industry becomes awash with independent experts offering their services, the market gets unpleasantly competitive and designing buildings for a living doesn't seem like such a bad way to make a living after all.

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