Forest High: Green High Rises And The Future City

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modern apartment building green space

The future human cities may have us living underwater, in space, or simply in forested high rises. Maybe it will just be a case of choosing other materials for construction purposes. Here are some examples of current green construction ideas that may point to the future of housing as the 21st century continues.


No matter which way you look at it, the future of human housing needs some changes. With an ever-increasing population and a finite (indeed possibly diminishing, thanks to rising ocean levels) surface to grow food, raise cattle, live and work, we’ll eventually run out of space.

Of course, the underwater city is a possible solution, but the technology required is not quite ready. However, we do have a housing type that could fit the bill: the high rise.

But high rises aren’t necessarily associated with sustainability. In fact, they are mostly present in cities and are known energy-wasters, what with ceiling-high windows and their heavy use of metal and cement.

But there’s a smarter, more ecologically-friendly way to go, and some architects have begun experimenting with green and sustainable high rises. From vertical forests to all-wood construction, these high rises–whether already constructed or in concept mode–promise a future where high-density living is synonymous with sustainability.

Milan’s Bosco Verticale

The first high rise I want to show you today was built in 2014 and has recently opened its doors to residents. Built in the Italian city of Milan, this high rise won the 2014 International High Rise Award.

Bosco Verticale

(image: Nguyen Tan Tin via Flickr)

This beautiful high rise features trees and greenery on every patio, solar panels for extra green power, and waste water recycling to irrigate the plants all along the building.

And unobstructed views of the Milan skyline certainly isn’t a bad thing!

Prince George’s Wood Innovation And Design Centre

Prince George is a small town in northern British Columbia, but it certainly is in the middle of a revolution in high rise construction and design. The University of Northern British Columbia recently unveiled its Wood Innovation and Design Centre, made almost exclusively of wood for its construction.

Although it only stands 30 meters high (a typical 10-story building), it’s a prototype for future developments in wood high rise construction. There’s a 17-story building under construction in Australia, and several other 15 to 2o-story buildings under consideration in British Columbia alone.

The benefits of wood as a construction material are plenty, but the best relate to the carbon footprint: a 20-story building removes the equivalent of about 900 cars in carbon dioxide savings per year.

Bangkok’s The Met

The Met in Bangkok

(image: Jeremy Winterson)

Bangkok’s greenest condo tower (69 stories) won a boatload of prizes after its opening in 2010. Even though it’s in a tropical climate, this building does not have air conditioning; instead, architectural features enable the building to stay cool even in the hottest of temperatures.

These features include green walls that absorb heat during the day and holes throughout the building that focus breezes and cools the building down.

This reduces the amount of energy needed to keep the building at comfortable temperatures for humans. With the possible warming up of global climates under climate change, this is an great example to keep in mind to help us reduce our demand for energy.

Yunnan’s Mountain Band-Aid

Although this is still just a concept, I thought it was interesting enough to add to my list.

This project won the second prize in EVolo’s 2012 Skyscraper competition. The designers used the strip-mined facade of the Yunnan mountains as inspiration and rebuilt a community based on the native Hmong people of the region, who were displaced for mining operations.

The community is set along the steep mountainside using a double layer construction. The traditional Hmong village configurations are maintained, and the community participates in the restoration of the mountain’s ecosystem rather than its destruction.

Even without the strip-mining, this type of construction could let us take advantage of steep mountainsides that were otherwise previously unliveable.

Another future of living

Whether your preference is space, underwater or simply higher, there are plenty of theories as to how humans will manage to sustainably fit more people into smaller and smaller spaces.

What do you think? Do these skyscrapers excite you, or would you rather keep the current housing development paradigms?


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Anabelle Bernard Fournier

Anabelle is a freelance writer, writing teacher and blogger. She spends a lot of time at home, so she likes to make sure that it's cozy and nice, especially in her reading nook. In her free time, Anabelle knits, walks and learns how to write stories.