Nanjing Green Towers isn’t your average skyscraper, you see it’s actually Asia’s first vertical forest.
The idea behind a vertical forest is simple: You essentially turn a building into a giant living breathing air filter, helping to clear the air pollution that often comes hand in hand with city living.
It’s a truly astonishing piece of architecture, you see dotted along its facades are 600 tall trees, 500 medium-sized trees while a staggering 2,500 plants and shrubs then cover a 6,000sqm area.
Not only does this increase biodiversity in the local area but it will be able to absorb some 25 tonnes of CO2 every year while producing some 60kg of oxygen every day. As our cities have grown exponentially it has become clear that new buildings have to take a different approach.
We can no longer just build boxes that contain humans, we have to build ecosystems. Designed by Stefano Boeri Architetti, Nanjing Green Towers will be the first vertical forest in Asia. This will be the third vertical forest project by the architecture firm after they completed their first building in Milan and then a second project in Switzerland.
Higher density urban living has become a primary concern for urban planners, who grapple with issues such as infrastructure development, traffic management and housing solutions. But beyond these physical concerns, there are a number of very real human issues that also need to be addressed by planners as well as developers and architects.
For all of its benefits, city living isolates people from the natural world, and new research is finding that this isolation affects the wellbeing of urbanites. With some clever design thinking, however, we can create cities that are more sustainable and offer a higher quality of life.
As cities grow, it’s easy for green spaces to become an afterthought in the planning process. This is not just the case in public spaces, but also in the development of residential and commercial projects.
Many city councils now have limited regulations in place specifying how much green space a new building should deliver, but going above and beyond this will have a positive impact on the environment, wellbeing of residents, the liveability of the property and its resale value.
In the last week alone there has been a great deal of public discussion over the design of apartment buildings in Brisbane, after research by Associate Professor Rosemary Kennedy from QUT’s Design Lab found that many new developments are too hot for the city’s sub-tropical climate.
Due to the excessive heat generated from their glass facades, these building require a higher amount of air-conditioning for temperature regulation.
“One of my major concerns is that we’re not designing our buildings using good design; we’re using electricity to solve design problems,” she said in an interview with ABC News.
She believes that as buyers become aware of these design issues, resale prices will suffer and tenant turnover rates will increase.
Building our cities without any regard for climate regulation contributes to the urban heat island effect, which negatively impacts the liveability of a city. This effect occurs when building materials such as concrete, glass and bitumen absorb and hold on to heat and, as a result, increase the temperature of a city.
By incorporating plants into buildings through rooftop gardens or green walls, however, we can begin to offset this effect and cool the structure, in turn reducing the need for air-conditioning.
If we were to create enough green spaces to cool Australia’s cities by eight degrees, it is estimated that the reduced use of air-conditioning alone will lower carbon emissions by 12–15 percent each year.
Integrating plants into city buildings is also an effective way to absorb stormwater runoff and reduce the noise levels experienced within office and apartment buildings.
These benefits are in addition to the well-known role trees play in filtering the air by soaking pollutants. So what seems like a simple element of city design can have a big impact on sustainable living and the practicality of a building.
It’s not just the environment that benefits from the practice of biophilic design – human health and mental wellbeing improves too. A recent 2009 Dutch study found that those who live less than 1km from green space had lower incidence of 15 diseases including depression, heart disease, diabetes and asthma.
Here at home, 83 percent of Australians relate relaxation and time out with green spaces, and 73 percent see their garden as a place to improve their mental wellbeing.
It is believed that this inherently positive association with nature lowers stress and anxiety levels, contributing to improved mental and physical wellbeing. Given this association, buyers are willing to pay more for a feeling of connection with nature.
Coromandel Place, Guildford Lane, Katherine Place and Meyers Place are set to be transformed into green leafy spaces as part of the ‘Green Your Laneway’ pilot project by City of Melbourne.
Working closely with residents and businesses, City of Melbourne has developed a range of preliminary concept designs for each laneway showing a range of greening options that are being investigated for each lane.
With over two hundred laneways in the central city, totalling nearly nine hectares, the Green Your Laneway program was established to help transform the city’s laneways into leafy, green and useable spaces with vertical gardens, new trees and new places to sit and relax. The program seeks to enhance the experience of Melbourne’s laneways further, with the opportunity to transform them into the ‘city’s back yard.’ Concepts being investigated include potential for vertical greening, trees, and places to dwell and relax.
The selected laneways are Coromandel Place, Guildford Lane, Meyers Place and Katherine Place. Initial design concepts have been developed for each with further community engagement to refine the concepts, funded by the City of Melbourne.
Invitations are open for the public to share their views on the ideas by exploring the range of greening approaches being worked on with the stakeholders in each laneway. You can also provide your feedback and sign-up for updates on each laneway page.
The City of Melbourne, through our Urban Forest Strategy, has a comprehensive plan for greening major streets and precincts, but not the smaller laneways. Across the municipality, laneways occupy a ground area of 60 hectares, with a further 150 hectares of space on the walls in these laneways.
The Green Your Laneway pilot project investigates the opportunity for lanes to be greened for the following reasons:
providing shading and local cooling
improved aesthetics and local amenity
health and wellbeing flow on effects
increasing landscape permeability (and hence flood mitigation and passive watering)
creating opportunities for relaxation and recreation.
The 8th International Urban Design Conference will be held at the Sofitel Brisbane from Monday 16 November to Wednesday 18 November 2015. This years’ theme titled Empowering Change: Transformative Innovations and Projects will focus on inspirational changes in urban environments.
Keynote Bio: Professor NG Yan Yung Edward is Professor of Architecture in the School of Architecture of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). He is the first incumbent of the Yao Ling Sun Endowed Chair in Architecture.
He obtained his doctoral degree from the University of Cambridge. He worked as an architect before becoming a professor. He specializes in Green Building, Environmental and Sustainable Design, and Urban Climatology for City Planning.
He is now working with the governments and agencies in Singapore and Macau, as well as a number of Chinese cities, on Urban Climatic Maps. Among many of his research interests, he is collaborating with public health colleagues to investigate the impact of city design and climate change on urban living.
Professor Ng has published over 400 papers and 3 books. He has twice received the International Award from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). He has also twice been honoured by the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Jury Commendation for Innovation Award. He was the recipient of the 2010 Red Cross Humanitarian Award and was named as one of the “Asian of the Year” in 2011.