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Utrecht’s newest apartment block will become a vertical forest

The Dutch city of Utrecht is getting a new apartment building covered in 10,000 plants and trees. It will emit 41 tons of oxygen annually once it is completed in 2024.

In imagined depictions of a utopian future, it’s very often that we see views of cities full of buildings dotted with greenery.

As the climate crisis worsens and urbanisation continues to expand over the coming decades, there is no denying that we will need to start integrating nature into our ever-warming cityscapes to cope.

Stefano Boeri, a 66-year-old architect from Italy, has set out to do exactly that. He’s already built vertical forests – or buildings that house thousands of plants and trees as well as human beings – in Italy, France, Switzerland, Albania, Cairo, and Dubai.

Continuing his legacy further, Boeri has teamed up with Roberto Meyer of the Dutch firm MVSA Architects to design another vertical forest building. Named ‘Wonderwoods,’ the new project is currently being built in the Dutch city of Utrecht.

Upon completion in 2024, the building will be home to 300 trees and over 10,000 plants, while providing living accommodation and office spaces.

Benefits from vertical forests like Wonderwoods

Implementing vertical forests into large buildings is one of the most efficient ways to reintroduce nature back into dense urban cities dominated by concrete and glass.

Built into Wonderwoods’ structure will be 300 trees belonging to 30 different species, plus thousands of plants dotted around them.

This abundant greenery will benefit the surrounding area’s microclimate and contribute positively to the well-being of people living in the building.

Lush foliage growing on the outside will create a natural cooling effect in the local atmosphere. It will protect residents and office workers from overheating during increasingly frequent heat waves.

As a result, this cool air will keep energy bills low for residents and companies renting office spaces by reducing the need for air conditioning.

What kind of trees are being planted?

A carefully thought out selection of plant species have been chosen to populate Utrecht’s Wonderwoods.

By creating a collage of different plant species – all of which bloom at different times of the year – the trees will provide a constant stream of nourishment for insects, bees, and birds in the surrounding environment.

For example, the yellow cornel flowers are amongst the first to bloom in spring. Nectar from these flowers provides energy for bees as they begin their first days of pollination each year.

In the autumn, berries will emerge on the branches of hawthorn, rowan, and currant trees which are popular food sources for local birds. Not to mention, many of these trees change colour with the seasons, making for a beautiful spectacle to local residents.

It sounds like Wonderwoods is set to be a hub for an abundance of life. It will be a place where humans come to live and work, in the midst of a flourishing micro-ecosystem where plants and animals continue to interact around them.

We’ll have to wait until 2024 to see it in its final form, but I’d say it doesn’t sound like a bad place to live!