Breakthrough urban food forest tower under construction in Milan

Friday, September 06, 2013 by: L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
Tags: urban food forest, Milan, sustainable agriculture

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(NaturalNews) The city of Milan, Italy, is the future home of the world's first two food forest skyscrapers.

Described by its architects as "a model of vertical densification of nature within the city," the urban food forest towers measure 110 and 76 meters tall. Altogether holding 900 trees vertically, the skyscrapers will hold the equivalent of 10,000 square meters of forest.

Towers recycle water, filter air and utilize solar energy

Set to open this year, the skyscrapers, designed by lead architect Stefano Boeri, will create a micro-climate within the city, filtering dust particles, removing carbon dioxide and creating oxygen. They'll even bring a whole new ecosystem of birds into the city. The towers will also use recycled water from shower and sink runoff, which will be irrigated throughout the food forest. Additional voltaic panels built into the towers will help draw solar energy in.

Green enthusiasts revel in the new design

Many green enthusiasts are quickly becoming fans of the new design.

NPR blogger Robert Krulwich believes the project is paving the way for greener cityscapes, saying, "Cities could one day look like mountain vistas."

Co.Exist's Michael J. Coren says, "Milan's Bosco Verticale shows that vertical green space is more than possible." He thinks that vertical green space could help cities find room for trees even in their already dense steel and cement jungles. He welcomes the vertical blurring of the lines between nature and living space.

Counting the costs - are food forest towers actually green and efficient?

Food forest towers seem environmentally brilliant and consciously aware, but are they sensibly efficient after counting building and maintenance costs? Can they hold up over time and bear the weight of soil and trees mounted into balconies high up?

Tim de Chant argues that hot and cold temperature extremes, as well as strong winds and rain, will bring too much stress for plants at high altitude. He asks the question: will the building actually be a green invention, noting the extra materials required to support trees and soil? What kind of maintenance is actually required and will people keep the forest maintained? Will the weather at higher altitudes restrict plant growth?

The total costs of the building are estimated to be 5% higher because of the trees. Chant estimates that the extra money could have been better used to restore at least 2,125 acres of forest on the ground somewhere. This means that the extra money spent to bring trees into the city and up into the sky could have been better used to restore 850 times more forest, making the tower project look totally like an inefficient gimmick.

Chant also reiterates that the trees won't even produce enough carbon amounts to make up for the extra carbon needed to produce the skyscrapers in the first place.

For some, it's about emotion and a vision

The constant maintenance of the trees throughout the structures won't save energy - at least this is what the blog, Plan Your City, is saying.

According to the Director of London's Garden Museum, Christopher Woodward, it's not just about energy efficiency. Woodward disregards the towers cost of 65 million euros and explains, "[A] building can meet the new environmental guidelines without the planting of a single shrub." In his view, the Bosco Veriticale is just flat out more exciting. Delving in the emotion that the towers bring, he says, "It goes beyond legislation; it is about how cities should feel."

Pointing toward the example of a cornfield planted outside the Garden Museum, he says, "It unlocked a 'primeval connection' as commuters stopped what they were doing and sat looking at the field planted in the middle of the city." In Woodward's eyes, the Bosco Verticale, "Is part of a new movement - a visionary reclamation of the nature that has vanished from our cities."

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