Modern cities are mostly glass and stone. People and businesses are packed in so tightly that there often isn’t room for green space. In decades past, this was a sign of innovation and growth, but as we traverse the 21st century, it’s become something of a tragedy. The lack of green spaces can have negative impacts on cities and residents.
Houston found itself under feet of water in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 because there was nowhere for the water to flow. Observations afterwards found that the area’s urbanization increased flood risks by 2,000%.
Studies have found that visiting parks can help people stay happier and impact sleep quality, reduce stress and improve the symptoms of depression.
Civil engineers aren’t primed to tear down buildings to replace them with green spaces, but there is a distinct need for more greenery in our urban settings. Urban Forest hopes to set an example that other cities will find easy to follow.
Introducing Urban Forest
What if we stopped treating buildings like structures and started treating them like living things? That’s what Koichi Takada Architects and Aria Property Group are hoping to do with a 20-story apartment building planned for South Brisbane, Australia.
This complex, dubbed Urban Forest, will create 194 new living spaces, in addition to a massive and elaborate garden that stretches from the open-air lobby on the bottom floor all the way to the roof. Each apartment balcony will have some sort of greenery growing from it, and even the communal spaces like the rooftop swimming pool will be surrounded by green.
The goal of Urban Forest is to create a green space in otherwise limited square footage. The design hasn’t been finalized yet, but the goal is to include more than 550 trees and 25,000 plants — all chosen from native species to reduce the amount of water needed to keep them alive.
The Benefits of Green Architecture
What are the benefits of this sort of green architecture?
Growing plants in an apartment complex helps provide natural filtration for air and water. It also gives stormwater a place to go instead of causing flooding. It isn’t a replacement for concrete structures, but it could help supplement changes that might prevent flooding and other storm-related issues in the future. These plants can also help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, becoming a kind of carbon sink while offering additional benefits.
Adding greenery to architecture also helps conserve energy, providing shade and keeping structures cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. This push toward energy conservation could help buildings obtain a LEED certification. LEED stands for Leader in Energy and Environmental Design, and new or retrofitted buildings must meet strict criteria to qualify.
Adopting This Technology Worldwide
Contractors haven’t started breaking ground on Urban Forest yet, but when it’s complete, it could easily be considered a contender for the title of Greenest Building in the World. This is the perfect example of the kind of progress that the construction industry — and humanity as a whole — can make toward a greener and more sustainable future.
The challenges now first lie in completing the construction of Urban Forest. If it turns out to be as beneficial as the simulations are projecting, adopting this technology worldwide then becomes a challenge of overcoming a hidebound industry intent on clinging to its old ways.
Creating a Green Future
Coming up with solutions to help make our future greener isn’t just a way to secure tax breaks or incentives anymore. It’s quickly becoming a global necessity. As a species, we need to make changes that help reduce our global carbon footprint, and we need to do it soon. Creating vertical green spaces like Urban Forest could be just the thing we need to help bring greenery back into already crowded urban areas.
Jane is the editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers green technology, sustainable building and environmental news.