Vertical Forests – A Solution to Pollution?

These snazzy "living buildings" are a sight for sore eyes, bringing much-needed greenery to urban centers.

Today, pollution and overpopulation are looming problems in the global community. Growing cities not only increase fossil fuel usage, but an increase in infrastructure leaves little natural land to help mediate the accumulation of carbon emissions in the atmosphere. An innovative method to deal with this problem involves not building left or right, but up.

The Vertical Forest Model:

From an environmental perspective, the concept is pretty simple: plants can be grown on a building by slightly altering a building’s physical structure so thousands of square yards of forest can be confined to this growing space.

Italian architect Stefano Boeri is the designer for these “breathing buildings”. The Bosco Verticale in Milan, Italy is a working example of this vertical densification of nature: the 900 trees would normally span across 7000 square metres of forest. There are a staggering amount of factors to take into account while constructing the building, including the suitable plants, irrigation system, relative positioning of plants and ensuring the plants receive enough nutrients for the forest to be sustainable. This breathtaking building introduces a microclimate that absorbs carbon emissions and produces oxygen.

Bosco Verticale – Milan, Italy

As one could expect, the vertical forest has high potential for environmental mediation in overpopulated countries. In fact, it was recently announced that the Nanjing Green Towers will be built by 2018! These two buildings will feature:

  • 1100 trees across 23 species
  • 2500 plants/shrubs
  • 25 tons of carbon dioxide absorption per year
  • 60 kg of oxygen produced per day
  • Tall tower: Offices, museum, green architecture school
  • Small tower: Hyatt hotel, shops, restaurants and a rooftop swimming pool

This added greenery has been welcomed, as Nanjing has an Air Quality Index (AQI) that fluctuates around 150-170 (according to the Real-Time AQI), classified as “unhealthy”. And although it’s only two buildings among many in this city of 8 million people, there have been plans to establish more of these buildings across the Jiangsu province in China. In fact, the architect’s firm has released their plans for creating a Forest city in the city of Shijiazhuang, China. It is a fascinating project with many potential implications, so I highly recommend to check it out!

This evolution in architecture is a wonderful innovation that takes advantage of amicable weather while addressing the resources that are available. It will be exciting to see how this project unfolds, and to see if there is a way to make this model more universally accessible. (I’m looking at you, freezing Canadian winters!)

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