Green City

Low Rise to High Rise?

In an effort to prevent Amman from inefficiently sprawling outwards as its population soars, city planners are considering allowing apartment buildings in the capital to rise to six floors from the current four.

GAM said it might amend long-established building codes to permit the construction of taller apartment blocks on level plots of land around Amman, whose population has quadrupled over the past decade to around four million.

Construction firms, always looking for ways to offset the rising cost of land and building materials, have long lobbied for an increase in the number of units they’re granted to squeeze into their projects.

If the building code amendments were passed, the President of the Jordan Housing Developers Association Kamal Awamleh told Al Ghad that average apartment prices in West Amman, which are currently hovering around the JD1,000 per square meter mark, could fall by 10 to 15 percent.

The much-maligned Amman Master Plan calls for the densification of the city’s urban center. In practice, this means building upwards rather than outwards wherever possible to slow down the chaotic urban sprawl witnessed on Amman’s periphery over recent years.

Building taller apartment buildings might achieve the sensible goal of packing more people into a limited area, but it poses the risk of adding to Amman’s traffic flow problems if developers fail to add more underground parking spaces and if GAM makes no progress on improving public transport.

Transportation consultant Hazem Zureiqat welcomed the prospect of taller buildings in Amman’s center, but only under the proviso that transportation challenges weren’t ignored. “I think it’s a good thing. The Master Plan that was developed between 2006 and 2008 called for intensification and densification. That may have traffic implications. But the solution is to provide better mass public transport. The alternative to this would be sprawling outwards and that costs even more in terms of building infrastructure,” he said.