As everybody knows, we experience waves of architectural fads. This has existed since the beginning of time, but tends to differ between regions. For example, what might have been popular in the U.S. in the 1960s, certainly wasn’t in the UK. It’s the way the world spins round.
However, this could be about to change. One trend which seems to be well and truly worldwide are planted buildings.
Some people call them green eco buildings, but the terminology is irrelevant. These structures are buildings which attempt to incorporate as many green elements as possible; whether it’s integrated gardens or terraces. These don’t have to be created in the traditional sense either; some are in vertical-form – meaning that they literally climb up the building.
It’s something that has swept over big cities and through the course of this page, we’ll take a look at just how fast the phenomenon is growing.
What is the history of planted buildings?
As we will soon allude to, planted buildings are by no means a new craze. On the contrary, they’ve been around for over half a century – even if their impact back then was significantly less to some modern-day examples.
For example, in the 1960s architects finally started to understand what impact their buildings had on the surrounding environment. This led them to completely change their way of thinking in relation to construction, and by the time the 1990s came around, solar panels and imaginative window configurations were all the norm. While such advancements were obviously a step in the right direction, these examples were quite industrial. In other words, they didn’t look green – and this is where things have changed more emphatically over the last few years.
Environmental laws have come into the picture and forced some hands, so to speak. It means that “ecological” is the buzzword amongst architects. This is for good reason as well; there have been studies that have shown that the design of a city impacts how much energy and transport are consumed. One only has to take a look at the differences between Copenhagen and Detroit to see this; even though both are of a similar size, the typical resident in the former will consume a ninth of the energy. This is mainly due to the way the city has been designed.
Where are planted buildings the most prominent?
In truth, you could cast your eye over most of the major cities in the world and see at least some examples of planted buildings.
Let’s start with the tallest example. One Central Park is based in Sydney, Australia, and was actually only opened in 2017. This building is comprised of two towers, east and west, as well as a six level shopping center at the base. The reason it attracts so much attention from green enthusiasts is due to the vertical hanging gardens and its own water network which takes advantage of rainwater from roofs, storm water from planter box drainage and sewage from nearby public sewers.
If we switch to the other side of the world, the likes of Singapore and China have been particularly prominent as well. In terms of the former, it was all the way back in the 1960s where the country openly declared itself a “garden city” and now has umpteen examples dotted around. China has similarly followed suit and if you were to analyze a lot of the country’s new city developments, it would quickly become apparent that this is a key architectural consideration for them.
Then, there’s even London. The big companies are starting to jump on board and if we turn to Google and their new headquarters in the UK capital, their design is as green as can be. It’s long and low, in a manner that’s led many to class it as a landscaper. The major green benefits occur through the huge roof garden on top.
The elephant in the room
Despite the above, there are problems with planted buildings. Firstly, they are being commercialized somewhat. There’s a lot of money being thrown at the concepts by private investors, for the simple reason that “being green” is regarded as fashionable.
This is completely fine, but only when performed in the right circumstances. For example, some developments are classing themselves as green by just planting a tree on each balcony. Sure, such steps are welcome, but one has to realize that the benefits of this are still very low when compared to the larger planted building concepts which this guide has mainly covered.
There are also concerns over the maintenance. Again, having green balconies is a great step forward and looks the part when it comes to the computer-generated mock-ups that are provided to cities prior to development. However, once residents move into these apartments, one has to question just how many are going to maintain these to an extent which is going to mean that the initial benefits remain.
Potential solutions for the future
Following on from the previous section, it’s worth taking a look at some options that might be on the table going forward.
There’s no doubt that planted buildings are a step in the right direction, but only when done properly. It’s the latter part of the sentence which is in question at the present time.
As such, some sources are suggesting that we skip the gimmicks (like the green balconies and vertical gardens) and turn back the clock somewhat. In other words, rather than painting a garden onto a building’s cladding, actually use this on the ground where people are going to truly benefit.
There have been real-world examples of this working as well. If you turn to Groeningen, over in the Netherlands, this is a city who built a brand new tax office with said approach. It meant that local people could pass through the gardens, with a traditional high-rise building based in the middle, and enjoy the green surroundings. This is a far-cry away from the vertical garden, which naturally doesn’t get used or taken advantage of.
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