In 2014, Stefano Boeri Architetti built the world's first Vertical Forest in Milan—and now the firm is setting its sights on Cairo, which has been ranked as one of the world's most polluted cities. The firm just unveiled plans for three new buildings in southeast Cairo that will be covered from head to toe in flourishing plant life—and construction is set to begin next year.
The living facades will feature hundreds of species of plants, and they'll serve as giant air filters, eating eight tons of CO2 each year and spitting seven tons of oxygen back out. They’ll also reduce the urban heat island effect, making the city more hospitable for its denizens.
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"Cairo can become the first North African metropolis to face the big challenges of climate change and ecological reconversion," said Boeri in a statement issued by his firm.
Undeveloped land is hard to come by in Cairo, so a Vertical Forest may actually make sense. Whereas a forest of 350 trees typically requires about two acres of land, a Vertical Forest can pack the same ecologically beneficial punch in about an eighth of that space.
The plant life—a bespoke blend of Egyptian vegetation—will host birds and insects in a self-reliant ecosystem. Solar-powered pumps will irrigate the plants with groundwater, and the variegated biomass will insulate each building, cooling facade temperatures by as much as 30 degrees celsius and reducing the need for air conditioning during Egypt's scorching summers.
Boeri has worked closely with Egyptian designer Shimaa Shalash and Italian landscape architect Laura Gatti on the seven-story buildings for the past five years. "It's time to have inventive solutions—a healthier and more beautiful approach that enhances the lifestyle not only of the inhabitants and but also the quality of the city for the streets' passengers," said Shalash in an interview with CNN. If successful, the project could set a new green standard for buildings worldwide.