Architects are copying nature to build more sustainable city skylines, made out of timber and covered in plants.
Skyscrapers are symbols of modern ambition. But the race to be the tallest is fueled by steel and concrete, two materials that account for an estimated 8% of global C02 emissions. So, what if the skyscrapers of the future were inspired by nature instead? Two countries in particular - Singapore and Canada - are attempting to transform the urban skyline.
In Singapore, engineering firms like WOHA are coating their buildings with lush, native plants. Aside from the aesthetics of this building, these towers of green are also helping to bring biodiversity back to our urban centers. Because this building has vertical gardens integrated into its design, it actually contains 1000 percent more plant life than could have existed on the original plot of land.
And having buildings that integrate nature in this way within our dense cities could have a measurable impact on quality of life and the quality of the environment. Some of us may have experienced New York in the summertime. One of the reasons why we get a heat build up in cities like this is a process known as Insolation. When the sun hits a concrete skyscraper, heat is stored within the building and then re-radiated back into the environment causing the air temperature to rise. However, when WOHA designed the Oasia Hotel, they used plants to combat this problem.
In Canada, architects and engineers are piloting new designs out of a familiar material: wood. To construct a wooden skyscraper, engineers use mass timber, which is engineered to handle loads similar to concrete and steel. Wood isn’t a new material by any stretch. It has ancient roots in medieval European churches and temples in Japan. But it has had a major historical drawback. Fire. Urban cities were wiped out in the early 19th century, and steel and concrete eventually became the dominant building materials. But mass timber today doesn't ignite as easily.