After winning the IHP (Internationaler Hochhaus Preis) Award in 2014, the residential highrise Bosco Verticale by Stefano Boeri was proclaimed the “2015 Best Tall Building Worldwide” by the CTBUH (Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat) at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. The decision was the culmination of a year-long juried selection process, considering more than 120 buildings from more than 30 countries. The members of the jury especially applauded the Vertical Forest for bringing more than 900 trees and over 2000 plants to the Milan skyline, as well as the exceptional implementation of vegetation at such a scale.
The Urban Ecosystem
Bosco Verticale is a pair of sustainable residential towers in the Porta Nuova district of Milan. The two constructions stand at 360 feet (110 meters) and 250 feet (76 meters) respectfully and host an astonishing range of floral plants and shrubs. Namely, each tower equals an area of around 7000 square meters of forest. According to Boeri’s official website, the Vertical Forest’s vegetation system absorbs dust particles and CO2, produces humidity, oxygen, and aids in the construction of a microclimate.
The US Environmental Protection Agency defines a sustainable building as the “practice of creating and using healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction.” To truly understand the benefits and the effectiveness of the Vertical Forest, let’s take a closer look of the history of sustainable architecture.
A Short History of Sustainable Buildings
The roots of green architecture could be traced back to the 12th century, when Khmer King Suryavarman II built the Cambodian temple complex Angkor Wat. It featured a rainwater irrigation system that collected water during the monsoon season, allowing workers to grow rice during the drier months. Furthermore, according to the Federal Commitment to Green Buildings report, in the early 20th century, several skyscrapers, such as the New York Times Building in New York and the Carson Pirie Scott in Chicago, used deep-set windows to control the interior temperature and lessen the buildings’ impact on the environment.
However, the modern sustainable industry evolved in the mid to late 80s, when significant oil usage spurred radical studies to increase energy efficiency and discover some new, renewable energy sources. The concerns surrounding the oil industry, combined with the environmental movement of the 70s, led to the earliest achievements in the field of sustainable architecture. A few early milestones include the formation of the Committee on the Environment in 1989, the introduction of BREEAM standard in Britain in 1990 and the founding of the Green Building Council in 1993.
The BioMilano Project
Italy is one of the most polluted countries in Europe. In fact, the country had more than 84.000 pollution-related deaths in 2012, according to the EEA (European Environment Agency). The situation in Milan is not any better. As the BBC reported , in December 2015, the city even banned all motorized vehicles for six hours a day over the course of three days to reduce the smog levels. Only the cars deemed environmentally friendly were exempt from the ban.
The Bosco Verticale not only provides dramatic energy-savings year-round, but also contributes to the regeneration of the environment without the implication of expanding the city. Still, the two towers are just the first step in a grand sustainability plan. According to Stefano Boeri’s personal website, the award-winning architect also hopes to build an agricultural greenbelt around the city eventually, utilizing over sixty publicly owned and currently abandoned farms, which will be worked on and opened to the community sometime in the future. With such safety measures, the air quality in Milan may start to improve rapidly.