Italy takes treehouses to a whole new level

Plans for 'vertical forests' – tower blocks filled with foliage – are taking shape

Forward-thinking architects are coming around to the view that inner-city tower blocks and woodland can be combined and are incorporating both in their latest designs.

Plans for "vertical forests" – 25-floor buildings, flecked with balconies full of bushes and small trees – are sprouting up in several European countries.

Fittingly, Milan, the continent's design capital but also one of western Europe's most polluted cities, is leading the way with the construction of two green towers. The Bosco Verticale (vertical wood) project, due to be completed in 2015, consists of two residential blocks, 110 metres and 76 metres in height, set in the Isola neighbourhood just north of the city centre. The towers will house a total of 900 trees, ranging from 3m to 9m in height, plus thousands of shrubs and flowering plants.

Stefano Boeri, the architect responsible for the design, says that together the buildings will provide the city with the equivalent of a further 10,000 square metres of woodland. The layer of foliage around the apartments is supposed to produce humidity, absorb CO2 and dust particles, produce oxygen and shield the building from traffic noise. Energy recycling systems that generate power from sunlight and wind should produce "dramatic" energy savings. The designers say that the plants provide shade in the summer and allow more light through during the winter months after they have shed their leaves.

But all that environmental technology doesn't come cheap. Prices at the exclusive development will start at €750,000 for 100 square metres, near the ground, rising to €1.2m for flats with spectacular views across the city.

"The towers may well be beautiful, but they are not something everyone can afford," said Damiano di Simine, regional president of the environmental campaign group Legambiente. "The real answers to Milan's pollution problems lie with sorting out the traffic problems and improving public transport."

Michele Brunello, an architect working with Stefano Boeri, agreed that the apartments under construction were at the luxury end of the market. "In this area, being so central, they're bound to be expensive," he said. "But the fact that these apartments cost a lot doesn't mean this project is not a good thing in an environmental sense.

"By highlighting how the use of plants and trees can make the environment healthier and more beautiful maybe we can encourage similar developments elsewhere."

And Milan's residents certainly know that new ideas are needed: thick smog regularly envelops the city and its levels of toxic PM 10 soot frequently breach EU safety levels.

Architects in other populous, compact continental cities with chronic traffic and pollution problems are also turning to green skyscrapers to help the environment. In Valencia the planned Torre Huerta will feature balconies with trees and the use of solar cells. In Barcelona, the helical Stairscraper, in which the roof of each apartment will house the garden of the dwelling above it, is due for completion by the end of 2015.

But the problem of how to keep the foliage looking good – and doing its job– has yet to be resolved. Mr Brunello said plans for gardeners to descend, like window cleaners, on rigs outside the Bosco Verticale are being ditched in favour of "garden-freeclimbers" – think Spiderman armed with clippers and green-fly spray.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobAre you a trai...

Year 3 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbridge Wells - £32,000

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbrid...

Year 3 Teacher Plymouth

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering