CTBUH 2024 Europe Conference Summary

Istanbul, 18 & 19 April, 2024

CTBUH Leader and Local Committee Member Mehmet Kilic welcomes conference attendees to Istanbul and the start of the conference.


The CTBUH 2024 Europe Conference, “Future-Fit Cities: Safer, Adaptive Density in a Changing Era, was held at the Ziraat Bank Tower in Istanbul on 18 & 19 April 2024. The conference emphasized how cities can adapt and respond to ongoing regional concerns such as population growth and aging, implement smarter resource utilization to reduce carbon emissions, and enhance resilience to meet the rising demands of extreme events. Presenters also shared how data and new technologies are providing innovative insights into assessing building stock. 

With an incredible turnout of 208 attendees from 38 cities and 25 countries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North America, delegates joined CTBUH for thought-provoking presentations, stimulating conversation, astounding off-site tours, an engaging workshop, and multiple networking opportunities. The conference brought together thought leaders, experts, policymakers, and industry representatives, forming a tapestry of voices representing various sectors and interests across the Europe region. 

The presentations and discussions taking place throughout the day on Thursday, 18 April are detailed further in this summary report below, along with a summary of the off-site tours and seismic workshop on Friday, 19 April. 

We’d like to thank the CTBUH Europe Steering Committee, sponsors, partners, and especially CTBUH leaders in Türkiye, Ilayda Oner and Mehmet Kiliç at Turner Construction Company, who made this a successful event. 

Turner Construction Company 
Ziraat Bankasi 

TK Elevator 

Emlak Konut Elevator Systems Industry and Trade Inc. (EKA) 

Supporting Partners 
AmCham Türkiye 
BuildingSMART Türkiye 
Istanbul Convention and Vistors Bureau 
Türkiye IMSAD 
Turkish Design Council (Türkiye Tasarim, Vakf) 

Media Partners 
Eko Yapi 
Parametric Architecture 


Thursday, 18 April
Morning Sessions

Opening the day’s event, CTBUH Europe Director Dario Trabucco welcomed attendees to the second year of the Europe regional conference. Next, CTBUH Board Chair Shonn Mills took to the stage to talk about the decision behind selecting Istanbul as the destination for the conference, citing data on significant tall building development in Türkiye, as well as the relevance of considering seismic, climatic, and other threats facing European cities, and its relationship to density as one of the most populated cities in Europe.  

CTBUH leaders and local champions Ilayda Oner, Deputy Country Manager, and Mehmet Sami Kılıç, Vice President and Country Manager of Turner Construction Company came to the stage and talked about the journey of bringing the conference to Istanbul. This idea ignited in 2023 at the inaugural regional conference in Frankfurt, and the momentum only continued to grow as the relevancy, connections, and incredible venue all began to fall into place. They each acknowledged their gratitude for having the event in the newly constructed auditorium at the Ziraat Bank Towers in the heart of the Istanbul International Finance Center.  


Mustafa Chehabeddine, principal at KPF described the design of the venue and the unique details of its construction.


Peyami Ömer Özdilek, General Manager of Ziraat Bank came on stage afterward to talk about the history of the institution, which started in 1863 and expressed his delight at seeing the first international event take place in the new auditorium, which was completed in 2023. Following this warm introduction, Mustafa Chehabeddine, Principal, KPF, gave a short presentation on the design and construction of the building complex (CTBUH 2023 Construction Award of Excellence recipient) and the innovative auditorium where the conference was held. 


The City Advocacy Forum initiative was presented as the opening panel, with urban experts from the cities of London, Oslo, Tirana, and Istanbul.


After the initial welcome remarks, CTBUH Vice-Chair Steve Watts came to the podium to present the opening panel discussion of the City Advocacy Forum.  By first addressing the audience in Turkish and then in English, it was truly an embrace of what the Forum signifies: inclusivity and exchange between cities around the globe. The cities in the second event for this new initiative (the first took place at the CTBUH 2024 Americas Conference) included London, Oslo, Tirana, and Istanbul.   

Watts proceeded to welcome the esteemed panelists of the opening session: Peter Murray, Curator-in-Chief, New London Architecture (London); Mansoor Hussain, Politician, Urbanist, and Advisor, Storm Samfunn (Oslo); Anisa Mance, Urban Planning and Development Director, Municipality of Tirana; and Özgür Bora Yaprak, General Director, BIMTAS Inc., (Istanbul). The panelists shared valuable insights into their unique approaches to issues of density and vertical urban construction, shedding light on the diversity and potential to learn from their respective cities. Some of the themes highlighted in the conversation included: population growth due to immigration and its impact on infrastructure and housing, the increase of traffic alongside continued population growth, and overall environmental concerns, such as carbon emissions and seismic activity. Each panelist expressed the challenges to invigorate positive cultural change for these topics and presented the unique ways and strategies of how density can provide solutions. 

Bora Yaprak gave figures of how the recent immigration growth in Türkiye has reached almost 10 million, with the majority of around 1.5 million immigrants currently residing in Istanbul. Based on resource-use data, the figure is likely double the estimate, at closer to 3 million, with half the immigrant population unaccounted for. This has added to vehicular congestion, and major projects are underway to provide more public transportation in Istanbul. Bora Yaprak added that electric-vehicle infrastructure is also planned for some of the projects.  

Hussain discussed the move to electric propulsion for all public transit in Oslo that occurred within the last year (2023), and also the incentive for increased density and height around public transit hubs. This has also resulted in putting forth policies for all-electric and green development incentives, which Hussain stated has already seen some positive responses for future construction in Oslo.  

In 2016 we started climate budgets and counting our emissions like we count money… We said that if you are building in the city of Oslo, you need to review the entire building, and in some areas, it must be emission-free. The first feedback we got was, ‘This is crazy. It’s never going to happen.’ And then a year later, we had the first developer come to us with an electric system saying, ‘We’ve developed this, and we want to build that site that you haven’t given to anyone else.’

- Mansoor Hussain, politician, urbanist, and advisor, Storm Samfunn, Oslo 

Murray contributed to this conversation by discussing the congestion charge for incoming vehicles in London, and how this has reduced traffic within the city center by about 30%. He relayed that one of the current key policies is towards “active travel,” which means traveling by walking, cycling, public transport, or a mixture of all three, with the London mayor targeting 80% of commuters using “active travel” by 2040.  Manse spoke about Tirana’s rapid growth and the 2030 plan for the implementation of a wider, electrified public transportation network.  

Reviewing resilience and growth, Bora Yaprak talked about the other challenges and projects being implemented to address seismic activity in Istanbul.  With a larger earthquake than the 7.8-magnitude February 2023 temblor experienced by Istanbul predicted to occur by 2045, Bora Yaprak said 1.5 million housing units have been flagged for need of seismic resilience improvement, with 600,000 needing redevelopment altogether. The audience then asked the panelists questions about water and energy resources and how the usage impacts each city to round out the incredibly engaging discussion. 


David den Boer, Director of Engineering at Peutz, and Giulia Mancini, Architect and Interior Designer of Studio Marco Piva, answer questions from the audience after giving their presentations.


After a short break, the next morning session looked at “Preventing Threats to Cities and Buildings” through the lens of two different focuses: Fire, and Data & Digitalization.  The first focus relating to fire threats was chaired by Olivier Vassart, Chief Executive Officer – Steligence, ArcelorMittal. David den Boer, Director of Engineering at Peutz, gave an informative presentation on the lessons learned from tall building fires and adapting city codes to timber building specifications. Giulia Mancini, Architect and Interior Designer of Studio Marco Piva, spoke next, specifically looking at Torre Antonini in Milan, which sustained a major fire. She emphasized the considerations for repair and improvements afterward and gave recommendations for future preventative measures. Following their presentations, both speakers answered questions from the audience.  


Syed Rehan, Senior Security Product Manager, Amazon Web Services talked about the increasing connected world through smart applications and buildings. 


Next, CTBUH Trustee Katrin Foerster, Global Key Account Manager, ABB, introduced the speakers looking at “Data & Digitalization.” Beyza Kasapoğlu, Architect and Founder of ALAN by BEYZA KASAPOGLU, gave a presentation on the digitalization of the construction industry as an opportunity for business and sustainability. She was followed by Syed Rehan, Senior Security Product Manager at Amazon Web Services (AWS), who talked about advancing building and infrastructure security and the increasing presence of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help prevent cyber threats. He emphasized that with more smart buildings becoming prevalent, integrated systems in new developments need to be modernized for today’s technology and the future of AI.  

The next session was on “Mobility.”  Sascha Brozek, head of major projects, KONE, started the discussion with a presentation on examples of building evolution trends and optimized people flow.  Next, Dalibor Savović, senior associate at DeSimone Consulting Engineering, reviewed the impact of elevator design for tall buildings and workplaces. Javier Sesma, senior vice president, TK Elevator, gave a presentation on reimagining mobility for future-proof cities, addressing the rise of aging populations and the need for mobility solutions not only in buildings but in public spaces and walkways that have significant slopes and elevation changes.  

After the three presentations, Manuela Belova, founder of Architecture by Belova, moderated questions from the audience with the three speakers.  A final question was asked about how elevator capacities were calculated and whether an elevator could really hold that number of people comfortably.  Sesma answered, “Elevators bring people together,” which was followed by laughter from the crowd and ended the session on a light note.  


Thursday, 18 April
Afternoon Sessions

After lunch, the conference returned to a session based on the theme of “Adaptive Density to Natural Threats and Climate Change,” with the first half focused on water and the second half on seismic considerations. Julia Köhler, Senior Structural Consultant at CREE GmbH, was the chair for the first half of the session about water and introduced the first speaker, Louise Clarke, Associate Engineer, BuroHappold, who specializes in integrated water planning. Her presentation looked beyond resilient city development, acknowledging that water resources are becoming scarcer due to increased demand by growing populations and globalization. Using examples of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London and the AlUla project, a tourism and regeneration plan in Saudi Arabia, Clarke further demonstrated how to approach water planning with these developments.  

Three main principles are: to set a clear vision and goals. Know where you want to go from the start. Second, know your baseline conditions. To plan the way forward, you need to know what you’re in.  And finally, work with the water cycle within your site, but also take a step back and look at the wider baseline. With this approach, we can use water to transform our cities, create habitat, and improve resilience.

– Louise Clarke, Associate Engineer, BuroHappold presenting in the session “Adaptive Density to Natural Threats and Climate Change: Water"

César Frías Enciso, Chief Executive Officer, Morph, relayed the climate change concerns of increased flooding and droughts, giving a presentation on water management in Spain, the past lessons learned, and new challenges for the future. He looked back at the history of European water infrastructure and its immense value in city development and growth, and compared this to today’s new considerations of not only sourcing, but of reusing and treating the water a city has, due to changing water levels and aquifers. Enciso emphasized that policymakers must also make a case for educating citizens on how water is used and to further develop water treatment projects as self-sufficient sources.  

Lastly, Bjarne van der Drift, Architectural & Urban Designer, Dam & Partners (Netherlands) brought to the forefront the elements of national pride in understanding and being innovative with water. Emphasizing that 25% of the Netherlands is below sea level, and 60% of its land area is subject to flooding. He relayed the often-asked question of, “Does it still make sense to invest and build on this land?”  Instead of answering this, he asked, “How do you think of risk?” Using the engineering examples of flood barriers that have been in place for centuries to protect the Port of Rotterdam, van der Drift chronicled historical and contemporary mitigations for this constant threat.   


The presenters, Atila Zekioglu, Senior Principal, Degenkolb Engineers, and Patrick Coulombel, Architect, Emergency Architects Foundation answered questions from the audience after their presentations. 


The second half of the session got into the heart of seismic threats to urban areas. Patrick Coulombel, Architect, Emergency Architects Foundation, started off the discussion by talking about the management of rescue and damage control in cities affected by earthquakes. 

Next, Atila Zekioglu, Senior Principal, Degenkolb Engineers, went deeper into the standards that have been created in the last few decades, specifically referencing those created by the Los Angeles Tall Buildings Structural Design Council. He presented how today’s practitioners look at local standards and building codes, noting that, to bring seismic resiliency to our cities, there are more learned perspectives from recent events. He emphasized that more needs to be shared across multiple industries and experts to ensure better outcomes in earthquakes. After the presentations, Ilayda Oner, Deputy Country Manager, Türkiye, Turner Construction, who chaired the session, brought both speakers on stage to answer questions from the audience.  

After a coffee break, CTBUH CEO Javier Quintana de Uña stood at the podium to start the next session. He posited that the next speaker looked at the most extreme threats affecting city planning—those from war. He introduced Oleksandra Azarkhina, Deputy Minister for Infrastructure of the Ukraine Government, who spoke to the audience via a livestream from Kyiv.     


“We believe that restoration is also part of our resilience, because you cannot just ignore the destruction. You need to repair, and you need to build new facilities because the people are here. And we are still the government, we need to provide access to basic services. So, what we've developed is a digital system to make it more understandable to society, but also to explain the prioritization [for restoration].”

- Oleksandra Azarkhina, Deputy Minister for Infrastructure of the Ukraine Government

In a very powerful and elevated exchange, Azarkhina laid out the realities of how her role has shifted from looking at environmental considerations to assessing bombed buildings and infrastructure. The development of a community-driven damage-reporting website has provided transparency and accountability to the situational challenges. Azarkhina stated that there are around 3,000 projects currently uploaded, documenting needed restoration and investments. She explained how this digitalization covers the whole process for potential restoration, including the choice of design solutions, organizing procurement, implemention, and financial tracking. This data-driven approach is a clear way to address the needs of its citizens and provide transparency in the process.  


CTBUH CEO Javier Quintana de Una discussed the challenges and strategies for future planning with Oleksandra Azarkhina, Deputy Minister for Infrastructure of the Ukraine Government.


Quintana then asked about the people on the ground and how the country handles the implementation of these projects. Azarkhina responded that finding the professionals needed to implement all the projects is an issue, as many people have become displaced, with the country entering its third year of war. She remarked that while it is a challenge, her work is about adapting and finding talent in the citizens, and continuing to reach out for investments that will provide what is needed.  

The conversation then returned to Kyiv, which is operating under a high level of security. Azarkhina also reminded the audience that life is continuing, with pleasant walks still possible in a city that is still full of people, business activities, and restaurants. She stated that people “build their happiness even in such dark times.”  

The exchange concluded with Azarkhina thanking the audience for the invitation and with strength and optimism for a better future. She remarked that the opportunity for finding solutions for more beautiful, resilient, and environmentally friendly cities is still a priority, but meanwhile, there also needs to be the realization of how we protect cities from the real threats of aggression that are not just in Ukraine but all over Europe and the world. Quintana thanked her for joining in the conference as the audience sounded a round of applause for her participation.  


The final session, with Anna Kamenets (left) and Stavros Gargaretas (right), focused on building design and development.


To follow that conversation, the final session of the conference had two presentations that looked at “Growing City Densities in Europe,” with the first presentation on Ukrainian resilience and the present-day prospects for development in Ukrainian cities, given by Anna Kamenets, chief architect, Archimatika Design Group. Looking at this through the lens of a designer, she offered examples of successful developments, including residential complexes in Kyiv and business property in the Union City Innovation Park district, also in Kyiv.   

Next, Stavros Gargaretas, associate and architect, MVRDV, spoke about the expanding development and growth of Tirana.  Working on multiple urban projects in the city, he discussed the incredible change he has seen. He presented the design for the 37-story Downtown One building, which has cantilevered houses and offices, forming a pixelated “map” of Albania in the center of its façade. The second design example he shared was the Skanderbeg Tower, sculpted into the shape of a bust of Albania’s national hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeg. Last, he shared a community project called the Pyramid of Tirana, which houses cafés, studios, workshops, start-up offices, incubators, festivals, and classrooms where Albanian youth will learn various technology subjects for free.  

With the conference coming to a close, CTBUH Trustee Charu Thapar, Executive Director, JLL, gave closing remarks, offering her thoughts and an overall summary of the day’s events. CTBUH Europe Director Dario Trabucco then thanked everyone for attending, and the audience dispersed to reflect on a full day of shared information and invigorating discussion. 

Thursday, 18 April
Networking Reception



After the day’s proceedings, a networking reception was held on a boat cruising down the Bosphorus Strait.  Attendees got to experience views of both the European and Asian sides of Istanbul from the water, while recapping the day's discussions and enjoying light bites and drinks.   


For more images of the conference and reception, view the gallery here. 


Thursday, 19 April
Off-site Tours and Seismic Workshop


Çamlıca Tower Tour. Image courtesy CTBUH
Çamlıca Tower Tour. Image courtesy CTBUH
Çamlıca Tower Tour. Image courtesy CTBUH
Çamlıca Tower Tour. Image courtesy CTBUH
Çamlıca Tower Tour. Image courtesy CTBUH
Ziraat Bank Towers Tour. Image courtesy CTBUH
Ziraat Bank Towers Tour. Image courtesy CTBUH
Ziraat Bank Towers Tour. Image courtesy CTBUH
Ziraat Bank Towers Tour. Image courtesy CTBUH
Ziraat Bank Towers Tour. Image courtesy CTBUH

Çamlıca Tower Tour 
The Çamlıca Tower was built to unify the services provided by multiple antennas scattered around the city. Now it is an iconic presence in the skyline of Istanbul. Awarded a Best Tall Non-Building 2022 Award of Excellence, the tour was led by the main team that contributed to the success of the project, who illustrated the complex design and innovative construction process adopted for the tower.  

Ziraat Bank Towers Tour 
The Ziraat Bank Headquarters towers were recognized as a CTBUH Award of Excellence Winner for Construction in 2023. Led by Peyami Ömer Özdilekr, a General Manager at Ziraat Bank, tour participants witnessed and learned about the advanced engineering and design technologies used in the two towers, including the stand-alone auditorium structure where the conference was held the previous day, an innovative façade, and the atrium. 


Seismic Workshop 

Mehmet Nuray Aydınoğlu talks about linear and non-linear calculations for seismic activity and predicitability in his presentation. 


Held at the Yildiz Technical University, Architectural Faculty Auditorium Exhibition Hall / Oditoryum Sergi Salonu, the workshop was an alternative to the building tours. In recognition of the importance of the topic of seismic design in Türkiye because of the events of 2023, and Europe in general, this workshop investigated the international best practices on seismic design.  A particular focus in the presentations and discussion was on the performance of the existing building stock and asked:  

Is renovation possible?  
How are existing buildings going to behave in an earthquake? And, 
How do we demolish buildings that are not technically or economically adaptable? 

Participants of the workshop who spoke to the day's themes focused on "Different Approaches in the Seismic Evaluation of Existing Tall Buildings" included: Ahmet Süreyya Ural, General Manager, Owner, URAL Engineering (Session Chair); Atila Zekioglu, Senior Principal, Degenkolb Engineers; Cem Ozer, Managing Director, Peikko Turkey (Session Chair); Mehmet Nuray Aydınoğlu, Professor, Boğaziçi University; Teodora Bogdan, Research Engineer, ArcelorMittal; Timurhan Timur, Director, Arup (Session Chair); and Yusuf Zahit Gündoğdu, Country Director, Miyamoto International. The workshop has provided valuable insight and knowledge that CTBUH will compile and share with its members in the upcoming year.


For more images of the seismic workshop, view the gallery here