Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Bogotá's Vertical Garden

A vegetated side wall of the Santalaia building.
On a steep, curving backstreet in Chapinero Alto stands a eight-story apartment building which would be quite ordinary - except that it's covered with vegetation.

The Santalaia building's entranceway.
The Santalaia building is not a long-lost ruin covered by the jungle, but the world's tallest vertical garden, according to Diner's Club magazine. The building is clothed with over 3,000 square meters of vegetation, composed of ten plant species, which swarm up the building's sides and onto its roof.

The Santalaia building seems to be the high-water mark of a wave of green walls (and green-roofed bus kiosks) in Bogotá, often championed as a solution to air pollution.  The building's vegentation offsets the carbon footprint for 700 people, according to the building's builders. Its vegetation can provide oxygen for 3,000 people and filter away the exhaust pollution from 745 cars, according to the builder's YouTube video. Bven if that's true - and if it were, wouldn't the building
A close-up of the building's foilage.
quickly become entombed by car exhaust? - Bogotá has more than 2 million private vehicles - not counting motorcycles, buses, etc. - and the number is growing rapidly. That means that the Santalaia building offsets far less than 0.00372% of the city's vehicle emissions, and less each day as more vehicles get packed into the city, and it provides oxygen for .033% of the city's 9 million residents.

Perhaps green walls and buildings would make a real difference if most Bogotá buildings were draped in vegetation, but that's not going to happen soon. The city would do much better by actually enforcing its air pollution laws.

Surprisingly, I didn't find much information about the Santalaia on the web. It doesn't even have its own website. It'd be interesting to know the origin of the project, and whether it's a p.r. idea, or a genuinely environmentalist one. On that same line, I wonder whether the builders incorporate green values in other ways, such as using low-floor showerheads, employing ambient light, etc. (I read that they do use the building's grey water to irrigate the plants.) Does the building encourage residents to walk and bicycle, by perhaps charging for parking?

A smoke-belching two-stroke motorcycle pollutes its way past the Santalaia building. Why not enforce pollution laws?
Why aren't the front decks also covered with vegetation?
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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