As we explored the concept of a sustainable metropolis in the last three articles, we understood the importance of net zero-emission vehicles, energy efficiency in electricity and heating, and water conservation. You can find the link to the previous articles here.
But what if I told you you could turn an ordinary building into an extraordinary spectacle by utilising one simple natural entity throughout the building? That is how the Bosco Verticale project in Milan began. However, do such buildings qualify to be sustainable?
Bosco Verticale, an influential architectural building, began its construction in 2014, with two tall residential towers (111 m high), constructed and then covered with a lot of trees; approximately 900 trees, 11000 plants and 5000 shrubs making it a vertical forest in a building ⁽¹⁾. Undoubtedly, the residents living inside feel privileged to be surrounded by lush greenery all year round. The amount of fresh air, birds chirping, and ventilation this building provides are psychologically and visually appealing.
Let’s discuss sustainability:
Everyone will agree that the forest planted in this building will help reduce the city’s carbon footprint and increase the amount of fresh oxygen for its residents. The trees also shade the space around this building, reducing the temperature of the façade, especially during the hot summers. The gardens have been carefully planted after two years of nursery growth, keeping in mind sufficient space for trunk growth⁽³⁾. In addition, the gardens are maintained by specialised gardeners contracted for this purpose. An efficient waterproofing system helps reuse grey water from the centralised heating and air-conditioning system to water the trees⁽³⁾.
However, is this project truly sustainable? The building was built using reinforced concrete, which adds to the negative carbon footprint of the building. According to the calculations made by some experts⁽³⁾, it would take about 55 years for the trees to offset the carbon footprint of the building. Apart from this fact, Milan has a cold climate through most parts of the year, which prevents its residents from sitting for long hours on the balcony to enjoy the benefits of the trees. Also, critics argue that there isn’t much heat in the city that needs blockage from the sun.
Figure-1: Trees and plants growing in the Bosco Verticale tower⁽⁴⁾
Bosco Verticale may not be the perfect sustainable housing project in the world but it inspires many architects. On similar lines is a project conceived by an Indian company Mega Projects Ltd, and they have built a dream project called the Mana Foresta in Bengaluru.
Mana Foresta is the first ever vertical forest housing in India, and it’s what the company calls a balance between comfort, convenience and nature⁽⁵⁾. Incorporating trees and plants in the balconies of every apartment, the Mana Foresta has successfully created an environment of pure living, where memories of living alongside nature, which is a typical sight in rural India, will also be experienced in the urban city. With state-of-the-art amenities and lush greenery just outside your living room, the Mana Foresta is worth investing in and living in.
Figure-2 The Mana Foresta project⁽⁶⁾
Some of the sustainable features of this home are the energy-efficient appliances, lighting and materials that conform to LEED standards, solar panels on roofs, effective space utilisation to maximise natural ventilation for efficient cooling as well as heating, use of recycled materials during the construction phase, drip irrigation system for watering the plants, the smart home features that control energy usage and of course the trees surrounding the flat⁽⁵⁾.
Vertical forest towers spark a new era in constructing sustainable housing in India. Some may qualify, while some may fall short. But at least it is a step positive toward sustainable housing. Millennials and Gen-Z can now choose sustainable housing options in India.
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The article was authored by Jenifer F Dsouza, an environmental consultant with an M.S. degree from The University of Manchester, U.K. She has over seven years of experience in water technologies and is an ESG consultant. She advocates for environmental consciousness and is a content and technical writer for ecological issues. She has authored 11 peer-reviewed journals during her academic research with collaborative projects with MIT University, Boston.
- Could vertical forests improve our health?, BBC World Service, 2-07-2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MFnHT-x1Ak
- Bosco Verticale – Porta Nuova, Milan ENG, COIMA SGR, 3-04-2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HM5ehh3MPhA,
- Bosco Verticale Milano, Stephano Boeri Architetti, https://www.stefanoboeriarchitetti.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/cBoeri-Studio-BoscoVerticale-scaled.jpg
- Capitalising on Sustainable Homes to build a sustainable future, Mana Projects, https://www.manaprojects.com/blogs/capitalizing-on-sustainable-homes-to-build-a-sustainable-future.php
- Mana Foresta, https://housing.com/in/buy/projects/page/239022-mana-foresta-by-mana-projects-pvt-ltd-in-doddakannelli