Adding living greenery to our urban buildings in the form of vertical gardens not only helps to beautify the city, but also serves the more practical purpose of producing more oxygen and cleaning the air. In Bogotá, Colombia, we have the world's largest vertical garden on the Santalaia, a multi-family residential building, covering 33,550 square feet (3,117 square meters), and stretching 9 stories above ground (and 2 below).
Created by biologist and botanist Ignacio Solano of Paisajismo Urbano, in collaboration with green roof design firm Groncol, the vertical garden project features over 115,000 plants of 10 different species such as Hebe Mini, asparagus fern, rosemary, vincas and spathiphyllum -- blanketing most of the structure's walls. Samples of naturalized versions of these plants were taken by Solano's team from Colombia's west coast, cultivated and inserted in the vertical system.
The vertical garden uses Paisajismo Urbano's patented "F+P" hydroponic system, which consists of a series of pillars, each with its own segment of greenery, and fed by 42 irrigation stations that help to keep the plants nourished, while water use is kept to a minimum by treating and reusing water taken from the apartments' showers. The system also incorporates humidity and radiation sensors to optimize water consumption.
According to the project team, the plant cover helps to offset the carbon footprint for an estimated 700 people, produce enough oxygen for 3,000 people, while also filtering out the particulate emissions of 745 cars.
Thanks to these features, the designers are able to call the Santalaia a "living building." Vertical gardens, for the most part, can be a boon to over-built cities, injecting a bit of much-needed greenery. This living skin of plants can help to provide shade, thus reducing cooling loads during hot weather, and can also help to partially insulate the building during winter. Heavy metals and other particulates from pollution are filtered out. On a larger scale, more buildings with vertical gardens can help to reduce the heat island effect. They can also help to boost biodiversity, as all that green can provide habitat for local species.
The idea was to change what it feels like to live in the city, says Pablo Atuesta, general manager of Groncol:
The architect's [Exacta Proyecto Total] intent was to produce a uniform green layer with real plants. He would have preferred to have only one species, but since it was too risky, we built several prototypes with different plants that would give us a uniform green tone and plant volume. The building should enhance the comfort and well being of its inhabitants, and the designer wanted the sensation of being surrounded by plants so as not to feel as though you were living in a dense urban environment like the one we have in Bogotá.