Five years ago, Stefano Boeri Architetti built the world’s first Vertical Forest in Milan, Italy. Now the firm is heading to one of the world’s most polluted cities, Cairo, Egypt, to do the same.
Vertical Forests are buildings that feature a “living façade”—essentially a layer of hundreds of different species of plants. For the Cairo buildings, the plants will all be local plants. The living façade acts as a giant air filter, taking in an approximate eight tons of carbon dioxide each year and returning seven tons of oxygen back to the environment.
The plants have the added benefit of reducing the “urban heat island effect,” an effect where the urban or metropolitan area is significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas. The plants will help to cool Cairo, helping to make it more habitable for its citizens. The biomass will actually cool the buildings by as much as 30 degrees Celsius, which will reduce the need for air conditioning.
“Cairo can become the first North African metropolis to face the big challenges of climate change and ecological reconversion,” Boeri said in its statement on the project. The planned three buildings, which will be seven stories tall, can have the same effect as a forest of 350 trees, but where the trees require approximately two acres of land, the Vertical Forest requires an eighth of that space.
The Vertical Forest will also be completely self-reliant. Solar-powered pumps will irrigate the plants while birds and insects will live within the plants, creating a true ecosystem.
Egyptian designer Shimaa Shalash, who has worked closely with Boeri and Italian landscape artist Laura Gatti, explains, “It’s time to have inventive solutions—a healthier and more beautiful approach that enhances the lifestyle not only of inhabitants, but also the quality of the city for the streets’ passengers.” If this project proves successful, it could become the standard for metropolitan areas around the world.
The concrete jungle could literally become a jungle, helping to filter our air and making the world a healthier place for us all.