Air Quality

Published on August 16th, 2017 | by The Beam

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These Boeri-Designed Vertical Forests Are Helping Milan To Breathe

August 16th, 2017 by  

By Jonny Tiernan

How do you combat air pollution in one of the most polluted cities in Europe? By building vertical forests of trees and plants attached to apartment tower blocks, of course.

Now, while this might not be the first solution that springs to mind, and it does sound a bit outlandish, the idea is grounded in solid science and is a method that could be helping pave the way for the future of cities.

As we have been discussing in our series, air pollution is a global crisis that is having a huge effect on cities across the world. The negative impact of polluted air on the public is well documented, and it is estimated that each year around 7 million people die prematurely each year as a result of the effects of air pollution.

There is a drive among companies and startups to find ways to help alleviate the problems and clean the air, but this approach is one of the most radical. In Milan, Italy the Italian architect Stefano Boeri devised a way to use the natural power of trees and plants to combat the pollution faced by the inner city. Trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, as well as acting as a filter for fine dust particles, making them a perfect resource for air purification. Taking this concept to the next level, in the Porta Nuova Isola area Boeri created two high-rise apartment blocks that are adorned with a massive number of trees and plants — 11,000 plants, 5,000 shrubs, 300 small trees, and 500 medium to large trees. In combination, the two towers have the capacity to convert around 44,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into oxygen annually.

Introducing nature to the city

Unsurprisingly, installing such a large number of trees and plants to apartment blocks presents a number of challenges. First, you need to understand how trees and plants will survive at such heights, how they will be secured to enable watering and fertilization, and how they will be maintained.

The solutions to some of these problems are as novel as the concept itself. To maintain the trees and plants, a crew of aerial arborists are employed to traverse the towers and check and care for them. If you live in one of these apartments, you may glance out the window on occasion and spot one of the arborists in much the same way as you may spot a window cleaner.

The buildings were completed in 2014, and cost a mere 5% more to construct than a traditional skyscraper. The apartments themselves were on sale on a range from €615,000 for an 80sqm apartment on one of the lower levels to €1.9m for a 200 sq/m penthouse apartment. This works out as between roughly €7,700 and €9,500 per square meter. More recently, the average square meter price is thought to be around €10,000. At present we couldn’t find any apartments for sale.

This introduction of nature into the city is a trend that looks set to continue. As inner areas grow, creative solutions such as this present opportunities to rethink how we design cities to make them healthier places to live. Boeri is already working on similar projects worldwide, including the ambitious and inspirational ‘Forest City’ in Nanjing. It looks like ‘vertical forests’ are going to keep on growing.


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About the Author

The Beam Magazine is a quarterly print publication that takes a modern perspective on the energy transition. From Berlin we report about the people, companies and organizations that shape our sustainable energy future around the world. The team is headed by journalist Anne-Sophie Garrigou and designer Dimitris Gkikas. The Beam works with a network of experts and contributors to cover topics from technology to art, from policy to sustainability, from VCs to cleantech start ups. Our language is energy transition and that's spoken everywhere. The Beam is already being distributed in most countries in Europe, but also in Niger, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Japan, Chile and the United States. And this is just the beginning. So stay tuned for future development and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Medium.



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