As cities start to develop, the economic value of the land within their boundaries tends to rise and as the price of land rises so pressure grows to put more floorspace onto the same footprint - which is done by adding extra floors to a building (or more normally by replacing older buildings with new, taller ones).
When a multi story building becomes noticeably taller than the norm for the culture that built it then it will tend to be called a high-rise (or something similar). High rise buildings may be used for housing or for commerical offices - although in most cases the ground floor(s) are likely to be used for retail and services and the basement(s) for parking regardless of the primary use of the building. Industrial high-rise is rare - although industrial buildings may be tall, they tend to have a relatively small number of stories and are usually not considered.
Technically there is a cost-benefit relationship in high rise building - the architectural engineering required to built tall is proportionately more expensive than building lower and so must be balanced against the returns available from selling or renting the floorspace produced - but many builds reverse this relationship and built tall buildings for prestige purposes to create the impression of prosperity with the implication that demand in their city is such that a building like this is required. This is not quite the same as the old adage that you judge what a culture values by seeing what its tallest buildings are used for, but it's definitely related.
This is not a new phenomenon (although 20th century developements in civil engineering have allowed it to accelerate something wicked) - the insulae of ancient Rome were reputed to reach as tall as nine stories (albiet not particularly safely) - engineering that would not be much exceeded (at least not for private use) until the modern era.
The logical extension of the high-rise building is the arcology.
High-rise Floor Plans (External Links)
- Dorna Tower - floor plans of a high-rise in Dubai
- High-Rise Apartment Delhi - apartment high-rises in Delhi, complete floor plans for several towers.
- High-Rise Hypothetical Floor Plan (PDF, offices on a single floor)
- Penthouse plan
- Rotating Residences - floor plan of rotating round tower in the United Arab Emirates
Game and Story Use
- As closed-off locations, high-rises provide interesting terrain for combats or other situations where the PCs might get trapped.
- Make sure to leave the PCs some options for movement, though - if only to herd them into an even worse situation!
- In an after the end campaign, the precursor's high rise buildings might not be immediately identifiable as such and even if they are, they may be difficult or impossible to explore if the lifts have collapsed (and maybe the stairs as well?).