Urban Jungles: The Importance of Green Buildings

With the growing number of people living in cities around the world, there has been an increasing effort to make these heavily populated areas more environmentally friendly. This partly comes in the form of eco-friendly buildings, which are changing the very nature of how cities are being developed. The concept of creating so called ‘green buildings’ is a holistic approach implemented in crowded cities in order to negate the negative effects that are frequently linked with ongoing and sizeable construction projects and more condensed living.

It is estimated that by 2050, nearly 70 percent of the world population will live in dense cities. While these cities cover less than 2 percent of the world’s land area, they contribute to over 70 percent of the greenhouse-gas emissions. Astoundingly 30 percent of these emissions are generated from buildings alone but with the creation of ‘green buildings’ this figure can be dramatically reduced by 34 percent.

Green buildings are characterised by meeting a strict criteria designed to conserve energy and water, increase outside air quality, and improve indoor environments. This is achieved through several defining factors:

  • Rooftops can be fitted with solar panels to generate clean energy, along with roof gardens that can reduce heat.
  • Materials used in green building aim to be completely recycled and made to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
  • Green buildings also utilise more efficient plumbing that will conserve water, which is key in cities struggling with droughts.

Inhabitants of green cities will profit from the many health benefits produced by green building which are drastic considering the amount of time people living in cities spend indoors. With fewer pollutants in the air, green buildings play a major role in reducing illnesses caused by poor air quality.

One particularly impressive example of green building is Stefano Boeri’s Vertical Forests which use hundreds of trees to create an ecosystem. This Vertical Forest in Milan is a geothermally heated, building that uses 900 trees and 20,000 shrubs and flower plants to create a microclimate which filters pollution, produces oxygen, and removes 11 tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year.

Boeri is taking his vision of a single Vertical Forest structure and is now applying it to an entire city. Selecting Shijiazhuang in China which is one of the world’s most polluted cities, Boeri is using his data from the Vertical Forest in Milan to turn 556-acres of urban landscape into a “Forest City.”  It could be thought that if the carbon dioxide reduction in Milan is any indication, Boeri’s passion for understanding of the connection between humans and trees could extend the lives of millions of people in China if not internationally.

Green building is not simply a quick fix to mend our towns and cities, but a sustainable investment in the future of our planet.

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