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Bosco Verticale: the world's first vertical forest

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October 18, 2011

Bosco Verticale is a planned 10,000 square meter urban forest, which will grow upwards. (i...

Bosco Verticale is a planned 10,000 square meter urban forest, which will grow upwards. (image from Stefano Boeri)

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Italian architecture firm Boeri Studio hopes to merge vegetation and urban architecture, with its Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) project. The Italian firm has designed a model that could see the "reforestation and naturalization" of metropolitan cities, by growing forests sky-ways. "Bosco Verticale [is a] device for the environmental survival of contemporary European cities," says Stefano Boeri, who worked with Gianandrea Barreca and Giovanni La Varra on the project.

Milan will host the first example of Bosco Verticale, with two residential towers already planned for construction. The towers, measuring 110 and 76 meters (361 and 250 feet), will become home to over 900 trees and that's excluding a wide range of shrubs and floral plants. The basic idea is that if you were to take the building out of the picture, the amount of trees needed to plant a forest on the land surface should be equal to those growing vertically on the tower. In essence, you will be creating a 10,000 square meter (11,960 sq. yds.) forest, growing upwards.

The project also aids in filtering air pollution contained in the urban environment. This is achieved as the the plants help produce humidity, absorb CO2 and dust particles, and produce oxygen. This will improve the quality of living for the residents, and it also creates a canopy that protects the building from radiation and noise pollution.

An irrigation and filtering system will be installed, that recycles gray water for maintenance of the plants. Photovoltaic solar cells will help contribute to the building's energy self-sufficiency.

Bosco Verticale will cost EUR65 million (US$87.5 million) and is stage one of the proposed BioMilano, which is hoped to create a green belt around the city.

Source: Boeri Studio

About the Author
Bridget Borgobello Bridget is an experienced freelance writer, presenter and performer with a keen eye for innovative design and a passion for green technology. Australian born, Bridget currently resides in Rome and when not scribbling for Gizmag, she spends her time developing new web series content and independent cinema.   All articles by Bridget Borgobello
29 Comments

So, what happens when the tree roots start mechanically eroding the surrounding concrete structure? (other than death and destruction...)

Joe Legeckis
18th October, 2011 @ 07:05 am PDT

I was thinking the exact same thing. Look at what tree roots do to sidewalks, foundations, streets, just about anything. . . they're inexorable, inevitable!

socalboomer
18th October, 2011 @ 09:34 am PDT

This should be great - until the first big wind storm. Something with 50 mph winds on the ground and 70 mph winds on the upper floors. It will be raining trees.

DixonAgee
18th October, 2011 @ 09:38 am PDT

I love the concept, but the weight of mature trees in watered containers on cantilevered balconies makes me wonder. Then there's the thought of a vertical forest fire. In the models it looked like there are a lot of Italian cypress trees that while lovely, act like giant matches in a fire...

dsiple
18th October, 2011 @ 10:27 am PDT

Never mind falling trees. How about branches falling 100m down. How about tree maintenance at altitude to prevent this from happening.

Trees need a decent layer of soil to be stable. 1 meter won't do the trick and makes for very unstable trees.

Wind at altitude is stronger. bye bye trees.

Then a little biology. You try to grow a tree at 100m up in the air away from the normal biosphere. They all be dead in a few months. Falling branches anyone?

I like the artist impressions and it would be great if they can make it work but trees are not pot plants.

Paul van Dinther
18th October, 2011 @ 01:41 pm PDT

end of 2007 i wrote a novel about a future, where allmost all of the landscape now being used for agriculture would be given back to wildlife. this being possible because of all the food for human nutrition would be produced in vertical skyscraper farms in cities and within autonomous landhouses and selfsustaining lifesships being capable to dive in lakes and oceans, fly in the sky and in space. in the novel the inhabitants of the lifeship frequently visit the wildlife areas while being guided from people who choose to life like in the old days near the earth and live of the land with permaculture methods.

considering this forest in cities concept one could even reduce the impact of human contact with wildlife by also simulating a kind of wildlife in city scyscrapers ... thisway even allowing the wildlife outside of the cities to be even more undisturbed.

my novel can be read at http://www.bookrix.com/_title-en-andreas-buechel-as-mayloveheal-ascende-maima-perma-and-mary-the-lifeship-1

Andreas Buechel
19th October, 2011 @ 03:47 am PDT

A wonderful concept ... clearly easy to shoot down, but let's hope it doesn't discourage people from pursuing it. Imagine a few nay-sayers dissuaded anyone from inventing a "flying machine", or - heaven forbid - chocolate spread ... !

Chris Hornby
19th October, 2011 @ 05:17 am PDT

Interesting concept. What happens when your cat climbs a tree limb or birds start nesting? At least I could pee in my own forest!

Bluejeans
19th October, 2011 @ 12:35 pm PDT

yes very much agreed with the erosion POVs. Definitely. What are they planning to do with this natural processes?

Kirill Belousov
19th October, 2011 @ 01:22 pm PDT

I like the concept.

Chan Boriratrit
19th October, 2011 @ 02:11 pm PDT

A vertical farm is much more feasible.

Racqia Dvorak
19th October, 2011 @ 02:14 pm PDT

Nice idea, but what about the fire risk! Vertical forest fire. That would be impressive! I dont think they have thought this one out very well.

ShanMan
19th October, 2011 @ 03:39 pm PDT

Just flat out stupid. You have a dozen different disasters just waiting to happen. Like making sandcastles out of black powder.

kellory
19th October, 2011 @ 07:24 pm PDT

lets stick to growing foods vertically. As has been pointed out there are too many problems with trees. Many folks are already trying different systems on there balcony's to produce vegetables and herbs.check out whats happening in Miami--http://verticalgardenmiami.blogspot.com/

finjust
20th October, 2011 @ 09:24 am PDT

What about irrigation? Those trees will need to consume an enormous amount of water, and water is not a free commodity. We design roof gardens with native plants and the roof collects rain water for irrigation, but in this case, there is not a relationship between green areas and water collection areas. Also, as mentioned earlier, the planters + trees + water will create a sizeable load on cantilever balconies.

BeComing
20th October, 2011 @ 03:23 pm PDT

I can see the headlines now: "Man hospitalized by falling apple!" "Isaac Newton says 'I told you so!'"

I do like this idea a lot though. Farming sounds fairly practical up there, just in a backyard garden sort of way. For maximum carbon absorption they should grow bamboo, that stuff grows up to three feet a day. It seems practical so long as the trees are kept on the lower levels. Man that sounds weird!

I'd like to grow a beanstalk on the top floor. Maybe one of those trees with the helicopter seed pods, those would fly super far. Cottonwood trees would be a nightmare. It would have the altitude and climate needed for good coffee probably.

I love this.

ebrush870
20th October, 2011 @ 03:46 pm PDT

MAKE THEM PYRAMIDS, NOT TOWERS. Good idea overall, but towers won't handle well the weight and the winds. A cone or pyramid shape would do much better.

Ciprian Pacurar
23rd October, 2011 @ 11:52 pm PDT

Most tree roots are 8" - 18" deep. Street tree plantings are often interconnected, not containerized - since there are trees everywhere I'm sure they're not in individual containers.

Tree roots don't "break" pipes or "make" cracks in concrete. They find existing cracks and grow in them. In the case of sidewalks, you're putting concrete ontop of roots...wtf do you expect??? If there isn't shoddy work in the first place it will take a long time for roots to penetrate concrete. Furthermore there are additional things you can do to prevent it.

Not all forests burn. In the eastern US we do have ground fires now and then (mostly man caused) but almost never canopy fires. You do realize that redwoods have grown for THOUSANDS of years without burning down. Google "methuselah tree" and you'll find trees can live VERY long (4,842 years).

Tree maintenance is always an issue. Residents can do some care on their own, or hire a certified arborist, AND it's nothing new for homeowners associations to regulate landscaping upkeep. Normal low density residential properties benfit from energy savings and property value that justifies the cost of maintenance. There's amazing research on the wide array of anthropocentric values of trees. In NYC I was on a roof top with 88 birch trees that the resident simply 'wanted' there, this is far from a new concept.

You could argue that vertical gardens would be better, but forests can be productive too. Elderberry, raspberry, blueberry, ginseng, cohosh, and goldenseal are some examples of benefitial native forest plants in PA. Furthermore there are other products like cellophane, cellulose acetate, ester, torula yeast, resins, cork, and let's not forget wood.

Simaril
24th October, 2011 @ 11:13 am PDT

Simaril, you are way off the mark. If you want to distroy a wall, plant something against it. the pressure of growth is intense. roots go where ever they can find water, and trees resemble below ground what they appear above ground. A 30 foot oak has roots about 30 foot deep and as wide as it's branches. they are fairly sysmertical. tree roots destroy basement walls and sidewalks. They were not laid across them, the roots were not there. There was a hole in the ground where the built the house, and the side walk was formed on dirt that had been plowed, turned,trucked in, or dug out. The roots were not there either. And the resident who just decided to add trees to a roof designed to carry it's own wieght and nothing more, should do jail time for endangering the lives of others. That is insanely dangerous. And all the posious substances you mentioned would be detroyed by tree roots seeking water. If your intent is just to provide oxigen, then algee in tanks would provide that while also breaking down wastes. or eating oil spills. There are dozens of safer ways to produce oxigen that do not endanger other people.

kellory
25th October, 2011 @ 04:00 pm PDT

Destructive roots are easily prevented with a technique used by hydroponics specialists called "Air pruning." Simply put, the plant is in a container that has a matrix of holes drilled throughout the pot. Roots (as far as I know) will not grow into exposed air. Thats why air pruning is so effective in hydroponics. The air around the special pot would have to be similar to an aeroponic environment before they could defeat the air pruning technology. Air is usually not wet enough to resemble an aeroponic environment, especially at the altitudes of a high rise building.

As far as the structural integrity is concerned, it's really not that hard to plan ahead for an expected load produced by a full grown tree. Materials science has yielded building materials that can handle exotic layouts just fine, and structural engineers have proven time and again to have a capacity to maximize the full potential of any given building material. I'm guessing the architects involved are not stupid people, and will take into account that the tree will eventually have a significant mass and wind resistance. If they really put some thought into this, maybe they'll even design things in such a way as to allow for harvesting the trees and selling them to timber mills.

As far as falling debris is concerned, perhaps the buildings should be built away from walkways where people will frequent, or maybe some sort of safety net could be erected around the base of the building that can withstand a branch falling at terminal velocity. Some of the aesthetics would be sacrificed for safety, but it seems that once a building is being covered in a big green amorphous blob of foliage, it has already been decided that, for this building, function is prioritized over aesthetics.

I wonder if trees are the best option for carbon fixation, however. It seems that there must be a bush or a vine out there with prolific foliage production that could match the CO2 scavenging capacity of a tree. Or perhaps a genetically engineered moss with a high surface area would be more effective, and could cover the whole building.

GeoMoon5
6th November, 2011 @ 04:46 pm PST



Avanzamento lavori Bosco Verticale al 30.09.2011

Andreas Buechel
12th November, 2011 @ 09:52 pm PST

People complain in this thread about the potential problems and they do so with unwarranted certainty of tone. Maybe they are right I don't know, but neither do they because the article didn't provide any info on how obstacles like trees blowing off in the wind and roots penetrating cement etc would be solved. But perhaps such solutions have been found, in fact I'm rather inclined to think solutions have been found SINCE THEY ACTUALLY BUILT THE BUILDINGS RECENTLY. IT IS NOT A CONCEPT ANYMORE IT IS A FACT. Check the video above for proof. I don't think this multiple million dollar project would have gone forward if the obvious potential problems any arrogant dude on the internet can point out hadn't been solved. Looks to me that we may see a lot more of these buildings in the future, I certainly hope so, and let's grow some food on them while we're at it.

Samantha Renault
15th November, 2011 @ 04:09 pm PST

I'm not interested in living in a building, the grey and cold and smog filled cities are old and tired to me, BUT if I were to ever live in a building Something like would be a refreshing change. Greenery not only has a positive effect on the environment,taking out carbon dioxide, but visually it's also uplifting. I'd like to see a few of these bulding in NYC

Gargamoth
21st December, 2011 @ 02:23 pm PST

Hving read all the comments I must say that this is a extremely brave and dangerous step, but hey if we don't keep on trying we will never achieve anything.

I wish good luck to the project and I hope the polluted cities will benefit from it one day.

stred
22nd December, 2011 @ 07:24 am PST

You're forgetting the biggest issue: squirrels! That will be a freaking jungle gym for them. And a ladder for almost any insect. Try it with evergreen bushed first.

Ervin Kosch
22nd December, 2011 @ 10:11 am PST

........" maybe they'll even design things in such a way as to allow for harvesting the trees and selling them to timber mills"......

Why bother? With people living is such close proximity to the growing tree they can train and pleach the wood into any desired shape - this guy (http://www.grown-furniture.co.uk) alone has achieved it a little, a whole culture of people working together could plait an ever extending habitable matrix, sequestering carbon and maybe even producing food as it goes.

Alan Sloan
23rd December, 2011 @ 02:13 pm PST

I live in Florida and there are numerous species of tropical trees that will send roots under sidewalks and foundations and crack them. Trees related to Banyans have roots that spread above the surface and become woody when large enough. You frequently see pictures of Buddha sitting under a similar tree. Matter of fact these types of trees actually can surround a palm trees almost like a vine and then as the vines become thick enough they merge into wood and the palm tree vanishes completely. These trees get really huge and if you cut one down you can find dead palm trees at there cores or even an old car or motorcycle that was surrounded and swallowed hole.

The roots on these trees can hang down close to ten feet and when the root touches the ground it will grip and a solid wood will develop and the tree will now have multiple trunks which tend to grow fat and become one again over time.

Jim Sadler
29th December, 2011 @ 09:00 am PST

For those questioning the idea of growing trees in pots is an art over 2,000 years old. Think Bonsai. A soil depth of a meter or less can be more than adequate. While there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration, and planned for, the concept is not impossible.

OPa_Infinity
3rd January, 2012 @ 02:49 pm PST

Samantha, "People complain in this thread about the potential problems and they do so with unwarranted certainty of tone. Maybe they are right I don't know, but neither do they" WRONG!

I have been in construction for the last 35 years. I grew up with tools for toys, and I work with load stresses, and safety concerns every day. I KNOW roofs are designed for their own load, not added gardens. I KNOW roots destroy building when planted too close. I repair the damage they do.

If you have ever seen trees blown down by straight-line winds, or tornadoes, IMAGINE what the stresses will be on this building when ALL those trees are catching the same winds? It will want to roll over like a broaching sailing ship! That is assuming the winds don't topple the trees into the street.

Building codes are far less stringent in other countries, and I wish them well, but I would never live in such a building.

Just because they are building it does not mean the risks have been solved. Ever hear of the Titanic?

kellory
17th June, 2012 @ 05:28 pm PDT
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