Ever since Malaysian ecologist-architect Ken Yeang introduced the concept in the 1990’s, living walls and rooftops have become an increasingly common sight in both residential and commercial buildings. In addition to looking good, planted exteriors also help cut energy costs, and in the case of rooftop farms provide urban dwellers with homegrown produce. Now, Stefano Boeri wants to take green architecture to the next level with ‘Forest Cities to combat China’s air pollution woes.
The Italian architect’s foray into metropolitan reforestation began in 2014 with two towers in central Milan. Measuring 110-meters (360-feet) and 76-meters (249-feet) in height, they host 900 trees measuring between 3 to 9 meters each and over 20,000 shrubs and plants pre-cultivated specifically for the purpose. The foliage is irrigated by rain as well as the building’s gray water recycling system. The ‘Bosco Verticales’ or ‘Vertical Forests’ that are equivalent to a flat area of about 2 acres, provide year-round energy savings and improve the air quality by releasing moisture and converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. The vegetal system also acts as a windscreen, captures dust particles from the air, and blocks noise from the bustling Milan streets, making for a much healthier living environment for the residents.
Boeri’s first project in China is the Forest Mountain Hotel in Guizhou that is scheduled to open this fall. The 31,200 square-meter (231,424 square-feet) structure’s design is inspired by the hill flattened to make room for the luxurious 250-room hotel. Also in the works, are two skyscrapers in the city of Nanjing. Similar to the Milan skyscrapers, the 200-meter (656-feet) tall office building and 108-meter (354-feet) tall hotel will host 23 species of trees and over 2,500 shrubs and plants. Boeri estimates they will absorb 25 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually, and produce as much as 60 kg of oxygen every day.
The architectural design team is currently devising plans for a wooded settlement in Liuzhou, a medium-sized city that is home to about 1.5 million residents. All the buildings will have gray water recycling systems and be powered by solar or wind energy. The architect is also hoping to build a green mini-city around Shijiazhuang, an industrial area in northern China that is infamous for consistently being one of the country’s 10 most polluted cities.