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What is a High Rise Apartment?

Rob Whiting
Boom Team

In major US cities, the skyline is always one of the most beautiful views. From San Francisco to New York, apartments with a skyline view always have premium rent. If you love waking up to a gorgeous sunrise view and being able to see the whole city expanse below you, you’ve probably dreamed about living in one of these apartments.

However, have you ever wondered what those apartments are called, and more importantly, what it’s like to live in one of these units?

Let’s find out!

What is a High Rise Apartment?

You might have heard the term “high rise apartment” before, but did you know that the first high rise apartments originated as early as the Ancient Roman times? Back then, high rise apartments were residential units that were located in buildings that were 10 stories or more. However, the modern definition of high rise has changed drastically.

Today, the meaning will depend on the location. In major cities, the limited space has necessitated the need for buildings to utilize upward space, giving rise (no pun intended) to buildings that tower significantly over the original basic requirement of “10 stories”.

In Massachusetts, a high rise building is any structure that is 70 feet or more in height above grade plane. However, in both California and New York, a high rise must be at least 75 feet or more above the lowest street level.

Since most high rise buildings have elevators, they are the exact opposite of walk-up apartments.

Are High Rise Apartments Safe?

One of the most interesting things about high rise apartments is that the buildings are designed to sway with the wind. As you may know, the design is essential to ensure that the building does not crumble in the event of strong winds or typhoons.

High rise buildings are a marvel of modern engineering because they are designed to move several feet in any direction. The core of these buildings is made from solid concrete to ensure a strong foundation. Steel rods and beams are also used to further increase durability.

Aside from having a core made from concrete and steel, high rise buildings also have a wide base. This base acts as a shock absorber to ensure that the structure does not crack in the event of an earthquake.

Important High Rise Apartment Safety Features

Your safety is the utmost priority when it comes to choosing a high rise apartment. Here are some of the features that you should look for when choosing a unit:

Fire Safety Features

A reliable and updated fire safety system is essential for high rise buildings, particularly those that are used largely for residential purposes. Look for fire alarms, smoke detectors, and a sprinkler system that is well-distributed throughout the building and in your unit.

Each floor should have a fire alarm that is visible, clearly marked, and easily accessible by all tenants.

Reinforced Windows

The windows should be made from thick and sturdy material, and they should also have strong panes as well. Many windows even feature a locking mechanism that will prevent the window from being opened more than a few inches to prevent accidents.

In New York, units that have children under 10 living in them are required to have windows with guards. This is an added precaution to prevent dangerous falls.

High Balcony or Terrace Walls

For high rise apartments with balconies or terraces, look for high walls and safety railings. This is especially important if you have children or pets.

Wide and Visible Emergency Exits

Check whether emergency exits are clearly marked and accessible. The stairways must be wide and free from obstruction. The NYC building code states that stairways must be at least 36 inches in clear width at all points above the handrail.

Choosing the Right Floor For You

When choosing a unit in a high rise building, you have three options: bottom floor, mid floor, and top floor apartments. Let’s dive into these options and find out benefits and drawbacks of each.:

Bottom Floor Apartments


The biggest advantage of choosing an apartment on the lower floors is that they are more accessible. There is something to be said about not having to wait for the service elevator every time you want to leave or come home. Bottom-floor apartments are also typically cheaper since they don’t have the premium view of higher units. You might save on electricity bills as well, since lower units are cheaper to cool or heat.


The biggest drawback of lower apartments is the noise. Generally, you’ll hear upstairs neighbors a lot more compared to downstairs neighbors, particularly when it comes to footsteps. Lower apartments are also more susceptible to pests and burglaries.

Mid Floor Apartments


Mid Floor apartments have the best of both worlds. You can still take the stairs if you’re in a hurry, but you can take the elevator as well. The rent is also somewhere in the middle; a bit more expensive than bottom apartments, but not as high as top floor units. Plus, you’ll have a pretty decent view.


If you don’t like noise, then maybe mid floor apartments might not be the best choice for you. You’ll be living in the center, so you’ll be experiencing the noise from both upstairs and downstairs neighbors.

Top Floor Apartments


If you value peace and privacy, the top floor apartments are the way to go. Not only do you get spectacular views, but street noise will be a thing of the past. Natural light is also a beautiful thing to have every day. There is also that prestige of living in the “premium” apartments, much like living in a penthouse.


Staying on the top floor means that you’ll need to pay a premium on your rent. What’s more, top floors aren’t easily accessible unless you have multiple service elevators. Lastly, heating and cooling can be expensive especially if you live somewhere with extreme seasons.

High Rise Apartment Pros

Now that you know what a high rise apartment is, here are the reasons why you should consider renting one:

  • Great Views

Who wouldn’t love a view of the Manhattan skyline? High rise apartments are the best type of apartment if you love waking up to an unobstructed view of the city.

  • Secure

Most high rise buildings have doormen. What’s more, many buildings issue keycards to ensure that floors are only accessible to tenants living there.

  • High-speed elevators

These days, you won’t find a high rise building without an elevator. Multiple elevators are also common in busy buildings so that people won’t need to wait.

  • Flexible Leasing Options

If you’re looking for a short lease or even an at-will lease arrangement, high rise apartments are a good choice. Many landlords consider short-term leases to ensure that units are always occupied.

  • Wide Range of Amenities

Many modern high rise apartments are cable ready and Internet ready to incentivize renters.

High Rise Apartment Cons

On the other hand, here are some reasons why you should stop and think about whether a high rise is right for you:

  • Expensive Rent

High rise apartments are considered to be luxury apartments, and many of them are found in business centers. In NYC, for example, a good number of high rise units are found in Midtown and the Financial District, where the average monthly rents are $3,300 and $3,500 respectively.

  • High Cost of Utilities

Since high rise apartments are more exposed to the elements, expect to pay a higher bill when it comes to heating and cooling.

  • Not easily accessible

There are times when even the presence of multiple high-speed elevators isn’t enough. If you have to take out your pet at 5 a.m. or you’re coming home with multiple shopping bags, it can be tedious to access your apartment.

  • Not suitable for children or pets

While high rise units are required to have safety features to prevent accidents, they’re generally not the best type of apartment for people with small children or pet owners.

Is a High Rise Apartment Right for You?

So, is a high rise apartment right for you? If you love a great view, value privacy and quiet, and you’re willing to pay the premium rent, then, yes! A high rise apartment is a great choice.

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