Green facades, or just adding some greenery to city buildings, help purify the air and make the cityscape that much more beautiful. Adding living greenery to our urban buildings in the form of vertical gardens not only helps to make cities more beautiful, but also serves the practical purpose of producing extra oxygen and cleaning the air. One great example of such a vertical forest is the Santalaia building in Bogotá, Colombia, which is also the world’s tallest vertical garden.
The Santalaia is a residential building which rises 9 stories high (with 2 stories below ground) and covers 33,550 square feet (3,117 square meters). It is the brainchild of biologist and botanist Ignacio Solano of Paisajismo Urbano, who worked with green roof design firm Groncol to create this gem. The garden consists of more than 115,000 plants, which are of 10 different species, including Hebe Mini, rosemary, asparagus fern, vincas and spathiphyllum that come from Colombia’s western coast. These plants cover practically the entire exterior of the building.
The plants are irrigated with the help of the so-called “F+P” hydroponic system, which is patented by Paisajismo Urbano. It is made up of pillars, that each supports a segment of greenery. These are irrigated by 42 irrigation stations to keep the plants growing. The water used comes from the residents’ bathrooms. The irrigation system is also fitted with humidity and radiation sensors that help in optimizing water consumption.
They estimate that the vertical forest produces oxygen for 3000 people, while helping to offset the carbon footprint of about 700 people. It also helps to filter out the emissions of 745 cars. Because of this, they are calling the tower a “living building” and it is quite fitting. It also brings some much needed nature into the densely populated city, and more cities around the globe should consider the addition of such vertical gardens to their skyline.
The vertical farm is called FarmedHere, after the company that plans to build it, and it will form one part of the planned 24 acre (9.7-ha) West Louisville FoodPort, which is set to become a large community of food-related businesses in area. The farm will be used to grow organic microgreens, herbs and vegetables.
FarmedHere will stretch over an area of 60,000 sq ft (5,574 sq m). It will feature 10 rows of vertical grow-beds, while the facility will also have an area for sorting and packaging microgreens, herbs, salad dressings, baby food, and other produce. The main aim of this farm is to provide the people within 200 miles access to organic and fresh vegetables. The produce will be USDA-certified organic and pesticide-free. It will also be available year round.
As it is with other vertical farms, indoor facilities of FarmedHere will be tightly controlled environments, which will use energy-efficient LED lighting to stimulate the growing process. It is estimated that they will also produce about 15 times as many crop-cycles as normal farms per year, while using a whopping 97 percent less water to do so.
The farm will also have social and economic benefits, since it will provide 40 new local jobs. They expect to hire mostly veterans and second-chance employees to fill these positions, and they plan to begin building the FoodPort in August this year.
The company’s goal is to build FarmedHere farms in 18 cities across the US, which would be, according to their estimates, enough to feed 75 percent of the population. Building more such farms, especially ones in or near cities is also a great idea since it would provide people living in these areas with more affordable produce that’s both fresh and organic.
Vertical gardens are great for façades, insulation and to add a bit of greenery to a home or office. But the problem with them is that they require a lot of maintenance and power to flourish. Well, that could be a thing of the past. The firm Treebox, which specializes in urban greening, has created a vertical garden, which is entirely self-sustaining. It needs no power and gets all its water needs taken care of by rainwater, hence its name—Rain Garden.
The vertical garden pictured above is located in London. The rainwater needed to irrigate it is collected in tanks, which are hidden beneath the greenery. Instead of a pressurized irrigation system typically used in such gardens, this one uses a “wicking rope” to water the plants. This works by allowing the plants to absorb the water they need through a capillary action.
The plants are therefore irrigated in a controlled way so that they do not get too much water too fast. The system is also capable of reducing the water supply to the plants when there is high rainfall, while a tank filled to capacity can sustain the garden for up to six months.
This Rain Garden is an excellent solution for use in areas where servicing them is not easy. The gardens are planted with mostly evergreens, such as ferns and mosses, or more precisely Asplenium, Polystichum, Carex Elata, Sarcococca and Geranium.
The Rain Garden in the UK was installed about 2 years ago as part of the Drain London sustainable urban drainage program. It has proven to be so successful, that they recently extended it to measure 96 feet (30 m) meaning they tripled its original length. Hopefully more urban areas will consider adopting this approach to drainage in the near future.
Pod Plants, as this innovative vertical garden is called, was designed and created by Chris Wilkins from Australia. He spent eight years developing it, working closely with Sydney University, and the concept finally got the recognition it deserves when it won the 2014 Australian Innovation Challenge for its unique solution to indoor vertical gardens and green spaces.
Pod Plants is both beneficial and beautiful. Each unit is freestanding and stabilized by a reservoir of water, which is located in the bottom of each unit. Due to its simplicity of design, it can be place in front of any existing wall, while it can also be used to separate off sections of a larger room. The only requirement for stationing a unit is that it has to be plugged into an electric outlet, while no other hookups, such as pipes, drainage or wall fasteners are needed.
The outer shell of each unit is made from recycled ABS plastic that is both highly impact resistant and very thin. The units are 7.9 feet (2.4 m) tall and weigh 44 lb (20 kg), so they are easy to transport. The specially designed Pod Plants hyper aeroponics system is used to water the plants. This innovative design takes care of several problems, including bacterial infection of the roots, which is unfortunately quite common in vertical gardens.
The solution involves having bare roots of the plants hanging inside the unit, and circulating tiny droplets of water through the air of the root zone part of the unit. Apart from stopping the bacterial infection, this solution also means that very little electricity is needed to run the entire Pod Plants system. According to the designer, the system has to move less than a liter of water per hour. To compare, conventional systems need to move several liters per minute. The system also does not rely on pumps, filters or nozzles.
Pod Plants certainly brings a fresh take on the vertical garden, which I’m sure will have many looking toward this solution. Being virtually freestanding and self sufficient, it could also be a great solution for tiny home dwellers, who wish to grow their own greens, or simply have some plants inside their homes.
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Casa CorManca is a sustainable home that was designed by Paul Cremoux Studio and is located in Mexico City, where sustainable construction has yet to make a significant impact on some of the world’s worst urban air pollution levels. Cremoux says that many of his clients do not yet realize the importance of a sustainable design strategy in heavily-populated city that is located in a hot, dry desert climate.
Behind a stoic slate facade, a three-story vertical garden is the centerpiece of sustainability features and is capable of moderating internal temperatures, improving air quality, creating humidity, and absorbing 267 kg of carbon dioxide per year. Beyond the practicality and beauty of the green wall, which is made up of over 4,000 plants, Cremoux has designed it to act as a light curtain, as demonstrated in a artful video animation of the home
With a site that is only 39’ x 42’, Cremoux has created a spacious floor plan that provides ample living space and green features that include the use of recyclable content materials and VOC paint, cross ventilation, daylighting, and passive energy-temperature control strategies. Heat is controlled by three heat exhaustion chimneys.