How Green was my Balcony

milan building image

It seems to be all the rage these days: Every building proposal has lush green balconies. It is hard to tell how it is done; when you look closely at the renderings of this proposal for Milano Santa Monica, via homedesignfind, one really cannot tell if there are planters in front of the handrails or if it is just sorta stuck there like Christmas decorations. Nor do you know who maintains them, whether each owner is responsible, whether gardeners have rights of entry, or whether they rappel down the exterior of the building.

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Certainly it makes for an attractive building, and we like the story of this one, where

The small city is designed to embrace eco-compatibility while paying special attention to energy conservation and the principles of bio-architecture. The project involves Polis Engineering of Milan, Studio Nicoletti of Rome, and the Marzorati Architecture Studio. Solar panels are used to produce warm water for civilians and photovoltaic panels cover sunny facing windows to produce electric power.

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MVRDV is doing much the same thing with its termite mounds Gwanggyo City Centre project just south of Seoul. Inhabitat tells us:

Designed as a cluster of structures rising up in concentric rings, each floor in the city is lined with lush box hedges that improve ventilation while reducing energy and water usage. An internal irrigation system stores extra water from the buildings and uses it to sustain these green facades.

which provides a little more detail of how it might work.

mvrdv seoul from grade image

Certainly there is lots of technology around to ensure that these types of planters get water; we learned at Greenbuild that even standard looking window boxes can have moisture sensors and automatic watering systems built in, like this system shown by Tournesol Siteworks.

window boxes tournesol photo

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But as Edouard Fran├žois demonstrated with his Flower Tower, the bigger the pot, the greener the building. (See more at 11 Buildings Wrapped in Gorgeous Green and Living Walls)

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Perhaps a better approach is the one demonstrated by Knafo Klimor in their competition entry for the Living Steel 2nd International Sustainable Housing Competition.(TreeHugger here) They put the green stuff in greenhouses, where they were accessible and were designed for real production rather than just a green edge to a balcony.

agro housing greenhouse image

Although they don't provide a lot of dirt either, relying on

Drip Irrigation - Reducing water consumption by delivering irrigation directly to the plants and by collecting water that realized though evaporation. Stop leaching of nitrogen to under ground water table by using a smaller volume of water. Recycling drainage water and reusing them for production of crops by using advanced structures and soil less media containers.

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What is my point in all of this? Only that lovely renderings of buildings that show a consistent green envelope require a lot of technology and attention and do not often come out looking like the rendering. Designs where the green stuff is in common areas (like Daniel Libeskind's proposal for New York) are more likely to get proper care than those where it is on every balcony of every apartment. But it is a lovely trend.

More Green Towers with Green Exteriors in TreeHugger:

Parabienta Green Wall from Shimizu
Shigeru Ban Builds Thirteen Storey High Green Wall :
11 Buildings Wrapped in Gorgeous Green and Living Walls :
A Really Green Building: Quai Branley Office Wing

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