Article co-authored by Dr. Mimi Roy and Ashoka Rathnam on "Vertical forests must for urban spaces" - Deccan Herald

April 04, 2017 | Dr. Mimi Roy and Ashoka Rathnam

The vertical forest, a pair of residential towers designed by the Boeri Studio run by Stefano Boeri, Gianandrea Barreca and Giovanni La Varra in the centre of Milan, has taken the world by storm ever since China showed interest in it. 

A model for sustainable residential buildings, vertical forests help to regenerate the environment within the urban premises and work in conjunction with reforestation policies of urban space. 

What makes these towers exclusive is that each tower houses trees between three and six metres which produce oxygen and help mitigate smog. The Bosco Verticale skyscraper, a groundbreaking model for urban forestation won the prestigious award for “Best Tall Building Worldwide 2015” from the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. 

The architect who worked on the construction of these towers states that it will provide 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide absorption each year and will produce 60 kg of oxygen per day. 

The micro-climate surrounding a vertical forest absorbs particulate matter, becomes a buffer against noise pollution and reduces urban heat island effect. The two buildings have 730 trees, 5,000 shrubs, 11,000 perennials and groundcover on its facades. The vegetation is the equivalent of that found in a one hectare woodlot. The innovative use of heat-pump technology is helping to slash heating and cooling costs. 

A Chinese state-owned investment group, Nanjing Yang Zi, revealed its plan to construct these towers in a hotel in China. The investment group believes that by constructing this tower, it’s not only going to combat environmental problems but also bring about a change in the trend of construction buildings. 

China will be the third country in the world to get a Vertical Forest, after Italy and Switzerland. The project is scheduled to be finished by 2018. Several other Chinese cities including Shijiazhuang, Shanghai, Guizhou, Liuzhou, and Chongqing are in the pipeline to get their own forest towers. 

In the era of climate change and global warming, it is high time we should think of transplanting the model of vertical forests to India. Deforestation and pollution have become critical problems in today’s world and are bigger concerns in the cities due to increasing congestion from vehicular and industrial emissions. 

Unfortunately, with increasing urbanisation, the green cover required to combat pollution is steadily declining, turning our cities into concrete jungles with poor air and water quality. Now that Delhi has overtaken Beijing as the world’s most polluted city, it’s essential for Delhi to delve into opportunities such as these. 

Alternative environment

Yes, the fact remains that the project requires huge funding and the feasibility of implementing it needs to be checked. The outcome of such a project is likely to be positive for the public. The towers constitute an alternative urban environment that allows us to live close to trees, shrubs and plants within the city. Such a condition can be generally found only in the suburban houses with gardens. The engineers of this concept tested the design in awind tunnelto ensure the trees would not topple from gusts of wind. 

Also, unlike the towers in Milan, the towers can also be built for commercial usage such as hotels, luxury apartments etc. Private business groups can look to head the trend of a vertical forest construction since it’s likely to cause mutual benefit to them as well as the people surrounded by it. 

If the buildings were to be built in India, on an average 2,160 kgs of oxygen can be produced by one tower alone and about 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide can be absorbed by the same forest. 

Among all these discussions, Bengaluru has decided to get its own vertical garden. The metro pillars in this city are being converted to vertical gardens. This is indeed needed for all major metropolitan cities in India where pollution is getting triggered at an alarming rate. 

We, on our part, need innovation and the initiative to make concepts like this come true. This is indeed the need of the hour.

(Rathnam is student, and Roy is Assistant Professor, Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities and Assistant Director, Centre for Environment, Sustainability, and Human Development, OP Jindal Global University)