Italian architect designs vertical forest with prefab units by BuroHappold

The architect says the building design is an effort at sustainability, but one green architecture critic doesn’t buy it.

November 16, 2015 |
Italian architect designs vertical forest with prefab units by BuroHappold

Cantilevered planters will host cedar trees and other plants hundreds of feet above ground. Renderings courtesy Stefano Boeri

Designs by Italian architect Stefano Boeri for a verdant mixed-use tower have been given the green light by officials in Lausanne, Switzerland, Gizmag reports.

Office spaces, luxury apartments, and a 53,819-sf retail center will comprise the 36-floor structure, which renderings depict as a tower stacked Jenga style with white rectangular units and patches of green trees and shrubbery strewn throughout.

Dubbed La Tour des Cedres (or Cedar Trees Tower), the architect says the green design will be boosted by other sustainable technology, such as solar power and rainwater collection. Among the plants will be 100 of the tower’s namesake plant, cedar trees, 6,000 shrubs, and 18,000 other plants, most of them native to the area. Together, the plants will make up more than 32,200 sf of greenery.

The cantilevered concrete planters and loggia are being engineered by BuroHappold “as prefabricated units that connect directly to the tower’s reinforced concrete frame,” Gizmag reports.

But green architecture writer and critic Lloyd Alter of TreeHugger argues that the amount of reinforced concrete needed to accomplish Boeri’s design may cancel out all the other conservation and sustainability endeavors of the building.

“Trees, and the soil they need to survive and grow, are heavy, and it takes a lot of reinforced concrete to support them on these cantilevered balconies. Concrete is responsible for 5 to 7 percent of the carbon dioxide we produce, so the responsible and sustainable thing is to use less of it,” Alter writes. “Without an analysis of how much concrete is needed to support these trees, [versus] how much CO2 the trees absorb, you can't call this sustainable design.”

According to DesignBoom, La Tour des Cedres is due to begin construction in 2017.


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