According to the 2020 World Air Quality Report, 22 Indian cities featured among the 30 worst polluted cities across the globe. This grim state of affairs is a result of vehicular emission, industrial discharge and other activities like construction and burning of waste.
However, after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, people have been spending most of their time at home. This in turn is continuously stripping them of sunlight, fresh air and greenery. As per research, indoor air can be five times more contaminated than the outdoor atmosphere. Besides, the lack of natural elements has a negative impact on the mood.
Setting up vertical forests that cover building and apartment facades with plants offers a respite from all this.
What are vertical forests?
The Italian architect, Stefano Boeri, who specializes in sustainable residential architecture, says on his official website, “Vertical Forest is a prototype building for a new format of architectural biodiversity which focuses not only on human beings but also on the relationship between humans and other living species.”
One of Boeri’s first vertical forest towers was the Bosco Verticale, located right in the heart of Milan, Italy. The iconic structure, comprising twin vertical forest towers, accommodates several trees, shrubs and flowers. This green curtain filters sunlight, creates a welcoming microclimate, regulates humidity, and absorbs carbon dioxide and microparticles.
“Rather than cold steel and glass, the surfaces of high-rises ripple with organic life and stand out majestically,” Boeri notes.
Another one of Boeri’s upcoming creations is the vertical forest tower at Nanjing in China.
As per estimates, this upcoming two-tower project, comprising 23 species of trees and over 2,500 cascading shrubs, will absorb 25 tons of carbon dioxide each year and produce about 60 kilograms of oxygen a day.
The first in India
The IT city of Bengaluru anchors the country’s first vertical forest tower, Mana Foresta.
The official website of the developer, Mana Projects, states, “Mana Foresta, the first of its kind organic architecture is a vertical forest tower located in Sarjapur. It is a 14 storey tower and instead of hard concrete, glass and steel, you will see trees, shrubs, perennials, climbers and creepers. Hundreds of birds and butterflies are also likely to be taking shelter here.”
The core element that was kept in mind while designing the building was sustainability.
The need for green architecture
In addition to ensuring sustainability, vertical forests also help in limiting urban sprawl. For instance, each tower in Boeri’s Bosco Verticale is equivalent to about 50,000 square metres of houses. This restricts the geographic expansion of cities, low-density residential housing, and single-use zoning.
Considering the extreme pollution levels in India, shifting focus towards nature is the top-priority now. These vertical forests act as a carbon sink, by absorbing the carbon dioxide emissions and increasing the level of oxygen. In addition, these vertical forests will also be effective in reducing the urban heat island effect.
India needs more initiatives like Mana Foresta where flora and fauna co-exist with people and create better living environments. Ensuring ecological designs which are technically sound and promote sustainable development, is the need of the hour.
Edited by Roshni Shroff
Some resources and links to help you learn more about vertical forest towers -