The setting is a classic layered mega city type deal, lotsa concrete and steel and oily dirty pollution. I've got some non-fantastical options to work with. Steel frameworks, sheetrock, fiberglass insulation, rapid printed concrete exteriors, and steel meshed double pane glass. Really nothing that might not be considered for an inner city building.

I basically want to narrate a person knocking their way through a wall during an escape, and I'm wondering if there's anything to add to help add flavor.

Are there any more interesting options for interior walls and exterior facades? Any general ideas for how buildings might be built in a highly vertical cityscape?

  • $\begingroup$ What is an interesting option is a matter of opinion. And a list of items is not really the kind of answer we like to give. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ To lean into the 'punk' angle, they might be filled with literal garbage. $\endgroup$
    – Roger
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 16:51

3 Answers 3


You have the obvious interior elements of wiring for power and possibly networking -- not everything needs wireless. And, water and sewage pipes.

Air conditioning might be handled locally into the apartment, with cooling fluids pumped around the building from a central location.

Similarly, electricity might be operated at very high voltages to minimize current losses, meaning the apartment would have step-down transformers and rectifiers, or the power might be high voltage DC, then the apartments would have static inverters to convert to AC or different voltage levels

The walls might have fiber optic cables with integrated sensors for monitoring the building's environment for vibration (structural failure), smoke, fire, chemicals

Outside units might have solar cells integrated into the glass or walls, and that means the structure would need proper power distribution systems to support mixing power from public utilities with power generated from different exterior walls as the sun transits the sky.


Recent developments in modular construction, especially recent factory-pre-assembled room modules now being employed in hotel construction suggest you may in the future see a lot of double-walls between units, some light-gauge steel studs between heavy-gauge steel structural members, all supporting interior sheetrock (or equivalent) with blown cellulose or glass-fibre insulation or sheets of rigid polyisocyanurate insulation, all with cold and cold water piping, waste water piping, power and data in flex conduit with connectors at each wall intersection.

Think steel lego assemblies which stack and align.

To see what I mean, look up on You Tube the B1M channel and look for the video on the new Modular Marriot which is going up as we speak:

B1M YT vblog article modular hotel

It's also worth recognising that one implication of this kind of architecture is that as it becomes more common, the reuse of shipping container approach which has failed to gain traction will become far more attractive - and so you might well see mid and high rise residential structures where the main structural components are super-heavy gauge steel (in scale with what you see in a bridge or super-high tower) and those create an accepting framework which accepts the shipping-container-sized modules and locks them in place. These larger frames need not be rectilinearly-aligned beyond the scope of the individual modules, depending upon the nearby structures and space envelope constraints - so you might see some very strange twisting leaning overall building envelopes, as long as all the forces balance and the overall structure can withstand rain, wind-loading (a huge deal in high-rise constructions) and whatever seismic forces can be expected on that specific site (so if on the ring of fire expect huge triangulated trusses, both horizontal axis and vertical) so your characters will need to be able to navigate between the larger steel members, possibly knock out light-gauge steel studs, cut through polyiso rigid sheet insulation or tear through blown insulation and avoid power conduits and PEX or BPEX flexible water piping; if the building was lower-cost and did reuse shipping containers, there might still be medium-gauge steel sheeting at the centrelines of the double walls between units too.

Hope that helps.

  • $\begingroup$ I do like the idea of modular and mass produced building/housing. But I always thought that modular buildings had a problem with extra surface area and difficulty in maintenance. All the extra surface area between modules creates more area for weather and other junk to mess with the building. It could make for an interesting setting where buildings have to be constantly torn down and rebuilt by giant machines. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 19:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Another potential advantage for those running a authoritarian technocratic state (such as the US may become if current trends continue) or for over-arching corporate control would be the ability to rapidly and effectively seal off one or more units and literally remove them, with trapped occupant, to hand over to the relevant authority, debt collector, or local warlord... you did stipulate cyberpunk. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 20:23

Graphene windows.

enter image description here


What is 200 times stronger than steel but six times lighter, a better conductor of electricity than copper or silicon and the next material of choice for electronic devices?

Your near future buildings have superlight, super tough graphene windows. Additionally these windows do not necessarily show what is outside - they allow light to pass but might serve as a video screen, showing an image of an idyllic outdoors like a seascape or a meadow. Graphene is nearly unbreakable and would also be difficult to cut; efforts might first disrupt the integrated electronics and video feed, showing what is actually on the other side of the window.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ one upside of glass is its is not combustible, fire codes may have an issue. heating would also be a nightmare the same thing that makes it a good electrical conductor makes it an excellent thermal conductor. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ @John - I don't know about how combustible graphene is but it is difficult to burn graphite. Put a pencil on your grill and see what is left when you come back. A single pane of graphene would be a worse window than glass as regards heat transfer in or out. 6 film-thin panes of graphene with argon or vacuum between panes would be better than any glass window as regards thermal transfer. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ but worse than say two panes of glass with a vacuum in between. graphene is a near perfect thermal conductor. to the point many predicted applications for graphene are designed to exploit the thermal conductivity. There is a great party trick you can do with graphene using just bodyheat to cut ice like a a knife. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ @John - The benefit would be lightness of graphene. Glass must be robust to contain vacuum but you could layer graphene Russian-doll style with decreasing argon pressure between each layer and vacuum in the middle., $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ which is a lot of effort and cost, and still yields a worse thermal insulator, since those stacked sealed edges will add up, a sphere of graphene filled with vacuum is still a near perfect thermal conductor, as long as the graphene is contiguous the property remains. If you are dividing the layers you are reliant on whatever the insulating property of the seal is, and it is unlikely to be high if it is a good air seal. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 14:45

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