One of the most innovative ideas to arrive in modern architecture is the living building. These types of buildings give the concept of “green architecture” a whole new meaning, as live greenery is integrated into the overall makeup of the structure. Instead of retracting from the environment in terms of energy, waste and water these types of structures give back.
Some living buildings have been constructed in polluted areas of the world where there is a limited supply of clean air. This is often because the areas in question are heavily populated with no room for local flora to grow.
Others are meant to serve as prototypes, to show exactly what we should be doing with today’s architecture – instead of consuming resources excessively. Let’s take a look at some living buildings out there today and how you can adopt a similar idea to liven up your own home.
The best example of a “living building” is Stefani Boeri’s Bosco Verticale towers in Milan, Italy.
If you didn’t already know, Milan is actually one of the most polluted cities in all of Europe. Bosco Verticale, or Vertical Forest in English, is a set of two high-rise residential apartment buildings surrounded by cantilevered terraces. Each terrace will play home to a group of trees and other small greenery which will work as something of a pollution filter for residents.
The plants will produce humidity, absorb high amounts of carbon dioxide, produce oxygen and even shield residents from excess noise coming from the surrounding area.
When complete, Bosco Verticale will be home to 730 trees, more than 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 plants – an amount said to equal that of one hectare of forest. They will be irrigated by a unique system that uses the building’s grey water supply – which includes runoff from baths, sinks, washing machines and even dishwashers.
The two towers, one at 80 meters high and the other at 112 meters, will be officially opening sometime later this year. Construction on the apartment buildings is nearly complete, as contractors are just moving the trees and greenery into place.
Omega Center for Sustainable Living
One of the first structures to be considered a “living building” is the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, NY. It is a 6,200 square-foot, one-story building that is home to many green features. It includes an internal geothermal heating and cooling system, solar panels for power, rain gardens which runoff to a unique irrigation system, a greenhouse and much more.
The building actually serves as headquarters for the Omega Institute of Holistic Studies. Perhaps what is most interesting about it is that it was designed to be truly “net zero,” which essentially means it has a zero energy footprint. It does not use any more energy than it generates on its own, and is therefore self-sustainable. It also shelters a pair of indoor aerated lagoons, and constructed wetlands which are home to many different types of plant-life.
Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Laboratory
The Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Laboratory in Waimea, Hawaii is a $4.5 million self-sustainable living building. It was designed to offer students a totally green facility, complete with indoor and outdoor classrooms, conference and project rooms, a workshop and much more.
It generates energy from three different kinds of solar panels and also includes recycled wood doors, a radiant cooling system and a freshwater recycling system. The Energy Lab received a LEED Platinum in 2010 which is the highest certification tier possible for green living.
Tyson Living Learning Center
Similar to the Hawaii Preparatory, the Tyson Living Learning Center was designed to be a research facility for students. It is an extension of the Tyson Research Center at Washington University in St Louis.
Once just a large parking lot, the area was transformed into a sustainable green building to be used for eco-systems research. The structure is powered by photovoltaic panels and collects water through a unique rainwater harvesting system. Students at the center are also located close to a 2,000 acre outdoor laboratory which helps them fulfill their research.
Install a Living Wall in Your Home
While the Bosco Verticale towers are the only true living buildings on this list, the other structures are designed to operate with a zero energy rating. Currently, humanity is consuming much more resources than the biosphere can regenerate. If we don’t act now to remedy the situation, we will be in trouble soon enough – if we aren’t already.
While the rest of us may not have thousands to build a green home, we can still all create a living wall in our homes. It involves planting live greenery inside a residence, usually in a vertical setup built into an existing wall. The best part is that there are many benefits of doing so, such as the following:
- Beautiful aesthetics
- Building protection from sun, rain and even thermal changes
- Increased property value
- Cleaner and more pure indoor air
- Energy savings
- Dampens noise pollution from inside and outside the home
- Increases sustainability
- Boosts health
Some great ways to do this are to install planters or green water fountains in certain areas of the home. You can also build vertical gardens right onto an existing wall, but that will take regular pruning to keep the wall even. Some resourceful homeowners even convert standard wall shelving into indoor garden areas. If you’re looking for some ideas, check out these living wall home designs on Houzz.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your own living wall ideas. There are endless possibilities when it comes to repurposing furniture, shelving units and more. By installing a living wall in your home, you can convert your residence into a green structure even if it never was considered to be green in the first place. Plus, it’s great for the environment and who doesn’t want that?
Image by Don Schuetze of the Green Living Wall at Guildford Mall in Surrey BC.
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