Saturday, August 29, 2009

Techie Trellises: Really Green Buildings

"8-Story Antigravity Forest Facade Takes Root"
Wired Magazine (August 24, 2009)

"When Patrick Blanc was a boy, he suspended plants from his bedroom wall and ran their roots into a fish tank. The greenery received nourishment from the diluted - ahem - fertilizer and purified the water in return. Forty-five years on, the French botanist's gardens have grown massive in scale. One inside a Portuguese shopping mall is larger than four tennis courts, and there's one in Kuwait that's almost as big. But Blanc's recently completed facade for the Athenaeum hotel in London (shown) could be his most high-profile project yet. Looming over Green Park, it's an eight-story antigravity forest composed of 12,000 plants...."

There are about a half-dozen photos with the article, showing the vertical gardens.

Nit-picking time: "antigravity forest" is a stretch. Yes, it's unusual to see a landscaping project running up the side of a building on a high-tech trellis: but there's no breakthrough physics involved here: just a somewhat techie twist on the old idea of encouraging plants to shelter our buildings.

There's a little discussion of the technology involved - and how plants are selected for this unusual treatment.

The basic idea is very smart, I think: What's not mentioned in the Wired article is that the plants stop sunlight from reaching the walls of a building. In climates where solar heating is a problem during some seasons - like Minnesota in summer - keeping buildings in the shade like this could mean big savings on air conditioning.

Besides: those uber-tall trellises look cool.

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