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Green Cities for the Future

For a busy, burgeoning country like China; bursting at the seams with people, buildings and vehicles, it comes as no surprise that they struggle with pollution. For the mountainous regional city of Liuzhou, the pollution levels have not yet reached dire straits, but if they do not address this issue pronto, the city’s atmospheric health will of course get worse over time. Liuzhou’s Municipality Urban Planning department has commissioned a design firm to create a 175-hectare Forest City which will run along the Liujiang River in the northern part of Liuzhou. Towers that will be covered in thousands of trees and a million plants; more than 100 different species. The idea has become known as “Vertical ForestING”; a trend that is perhaps set to take over architecture the world over.  The concept is based on giving back to nature, as well as perhaps slowing down climate change and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

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The Forest City vision from Stefano Boeri Architetti

On June 26th it was announced that Italian design firm Stefano Boeri Architetti will create what they call a ‘forest city’ thaty will be able to help address the smog levels. The idea is that the neighbourhood will comprise of plant covered towers to help reduce pollution levels. But we are not talking about a few measly trees. The skyscrapers will hold a whopping 1100 trees and thousands of cascading shrubs on the rooftops and balconies. That means that the plants that will be used in each tower would cover approx 7000 metres squared on flat land! How incredible is that!!??  On top of that, the majority of the buildings energy requirements will be fueled from renewable sources such as solar power. The direct result of the plants within the tower structures will absorb 10000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, as well as 57 tonnes of pollutants each year. This is as effective as taking 2100 cars off the roads.

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Stefano Boeri Artiectetti

The two tower complex, called Nanjing Green Towers is modeled on a similar concept that Boeri designed and completed in Milan in 2014. They also have a similar concept being executed in Switzerland in the coming year. Luizhou’s “forest city” set in China’s mountainous region is set to be a reality by 2020. Whilst the impact that two towers will have on the pollution levels of the city will be minimal, they serve a blueprint for creating whole ‘forest cities’. If the Chinese government is able to change the mindset of growth and progress to include creating green cities, not simply perpetuating the problem of expanding, exceeding limits and putting such immense pressure on the surrounding natural environment, then buildings such as these may help combat the pollution problem in the future.

Boeri writes;  “The diffusion of plants, not only in the parks and gardens or along the streets, but also over building facades, will allow the energy self-sufficient city to contribute to improve the air quality (absorbing both CO2 and fine dust of 57 tons per year), to decrease the average air temperature, to create noise barriers and to improve the biodiversity of living species, generating the habitat for birds, insects and small animals that inhabit the Liuzhou territory.”

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Milan Towers completed in 2014. Image Stefano Boeri Architetti
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Nanjing Towers via Stefano Boeri Architectetti

What do you think- do these forest cities have a place in the world in the future? Or do you feel it is a misguided waste of time and energy?

Fwf x

 

 

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Vertical Gardens- The Sky’s The Limit

These days, the current trend in housing sees more people enjoying apartment living; with no lawns to mow and fewer rooms to keep clean and tidy. Where they are in a house, (at least in homes around me) so often we witness the original homes being bull dozed to the ground, and monstrous mansions built in place with little or no garden or yard left. This means that if you are at all interested in gardening or producing your own food, you must get creative.

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Image: Brilliant Besser Block stackable garden, Apartment Therapy

Vertical gardens are an innovative way to optimise the space you have by building your garden UPWARDS! Essentially it is a new take on an old technique, instead of simply using a trellis, we now utilise all sorts of products to create these gardens.There are certainly specialty products available now that can make creating your vertical garden pretty straight forward and simple; a combination of wired frames and pots, but there are plenty of other options too.

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Image: Bunning, Ready to go vertical garden kit

The great thing about this resurgence in popularity of the humble vertical garden is people have started thinking about new ways to do it, and with that has come a rise in ‘upcycling’ concepts. Plastic soft drink or milk bottles can be used, along with reused wooden pallets to create unique upright structures to plant your garden within.

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Vertical Garden Using Plastic Milk Bottles.  This would be a great thing to do at school - maybe give each child a couple of seeds and see what grows?:
Image via 1001 Gardens, Coach House Crafting
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Image: ZelfMaak Ideetjes

 

Vertical gardens are a unique way to disguise unattractive areas- in our case, we recently attached a vertical garden to the outside of our pool filter box which was previously covered in a dark bamboo fencing which looked visually very heavy. These gardens can also be used to draw your attention to a particular area as is the case with green wall creations on premier hotels or office blocks, both inside and out.

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Image: Outdoor Design
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Image via Tournesol Site Works, The living wall at the Singapore Institute of Technology & Education – images courtesy of Victor Tan, Elmich

This is not a garden solution for someone who is after something low maintenance. As you are creating the garden beds upwards, they tend to be fairly shallow or small areas that are filled with soil, and therefore are unable to hold large quantities of water. This means they require regularly watering or irrigation systems, and of course need to be appropriate plants for this situation.

Vertical gardens can use almost any plant you like provided you provide them with appropriate conditions, however for the most interesting affects, consider using a combination of climbing plants, and plants that are naturally pendulous as well as plants that provide bulk.

Here are some of my suggestions to get your vertical garden, or green wall looking really interesting; sedum and other succulents, bromeliads or other air plants which require little soil, ferns, Chain of hearts, Silver Falls (below), Colius (below).

Alternatively, you can use your vertical garden to harvest your own herbs and vegetables. I suggest lettuce varieties would be useful in most homes, as well as tomatoes if you have the room for a trellis, or other support. Beans are quick to harvest so are interesting to grow if you have young ones in the house as they can quickly see progress :-)

 

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So whether you are short on space, or simply want to create an interesting display somewhere you have a blank wall, vertical gardens are a beautiful, effective way to bring your space to life, quite literally!

Fwf x

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