Sparks

China to build world’s first forest city

 By RP Siegel

People all over the world are racing to find ways to slow the pace of climate change…

With 70 percent of the world’s population expected to live in cities by 2050, that could potentially leave more room for forests to expand (after the farmland required to feed 10 billion people has been allocated).
But China is turning that whole equation on its head by creatively combining the two. A new “forest city” is being constructed in the municipality of Liuzhou, in Southern China. The 430-acre site (175 hectares) along the Liujiang River, will provide housing for 30,000 people, who will be outnumbered by the 40,000 trees that will be planted there. Altogether, there will be one million plants put in, representing over 100 different species that will be planted on every imaginable surface.

The roots of the project

The city is the brain child of Italian architect and urban planner Stefano Boeri, who was commissioned by the municipality’s planning bureau. The master plan was completed in 2017. Boeri, who has been studying urban forestry for years, says “It’s one of the main ways to deal with climate change.” According to Boeri’s website, “For the first time in China and in the world, an innovative urban settlement will combine the challenge for energy self-sufficiency and for the use of renewable energy with the challenge to increase biodiversity and to effectively reduce air pollution in urban areas – which is really critical for present-day China – thanks to the multiplication of vegetable and biological urban surfaces.”

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Liuzhou forest city project model (stefanoboeriarchitetti.net)

In fact, the presence of this much plant life in the city will help reduce climate change in several ways. First, the trees will sequester carbon dioxide, diverting the gas from its harmful role in raising the planet’s temperature, towards something more useful — the production of branches and leaves. Those branches and leaves will, in turn, help to decrease the city’s average summer air temperatures, thereby reducing the need for air conditioning.
Planting trees is a well-known strategy for counteracting the so-called urban heat island effect, that has shown that cities tend to get warmer than the surrounding countryside, due to both the absence of shade and the abundance of heat absorbing materials such as concrete, asphalt, and brick. The trees will also help to reduce noise levels and improve species biodiversity in the city, generating habitat for the birds, insects and small animals that live in the Liuzhou territory. Finally, trees also help absorb rainfall, which helps to reduce runoff and replenish underground aquifers.
The recognition of the many tangible benefits of urban forestry has been spreading across the globe. A recent study of ten megacities on five continents found that increasing the number of trees in these cities by 20 percent would literally double the benefits of these forests. According to study author Theodore Endreny, “They’re getting an immediate cleansing of the air that’s around them. They’re getting that direct cooling from the tree, and even food and other products. There’s potential to increase the coverage of urban forests in our megacities, and that would make them more sustainable, better places to live.”

“Italian job”

The idea is to show that a city can grow and reduce pollution at the same time. The project builds on the success of the Vertical Forest, or “Bosco Verticale” constructed in Milan (video), which consists of two high-rise towers which balconies all around them covered with trees. The building, which was part of the rehabilitation of the historic district, won a Highrise Award for innovation in 2014. These buildings are now being replicated in Nanjing, Shanghai, Lausanne, and elsewhere.
The Liuzhou forest city, then will be constructed of such vertical forests, that will, in turn, be surrounded by trees lining the streets and walkways. It is intended to be a sustainability showcase and will be connected to the main city by high-speed rail, totally wired for internet and powered by renewable energy, including geothermal air conditioning. It will also promote the use of electric vehicles, and it will also contain several schools and two hospitals. This city will be among the first to combine energy self-sufficiency, enhanced biodiversity, climate change mitigation and pollution reduction, all in one stroke.
In a preamble to a recent lecture, Boeri asks these questions that clearly inform his philosophy. “How can Architecture include living nature as a constitutive element — and not as a simple decoration? How can architecture dialogue with the unpredictable and uncanny presence of nature? Can the inclusion of living nature inside architecture seriously contribute to reverse Climate Change (reducing air pollution, absorbing CO2 and increasing living species biodiversity)? Should we consider a kind of a non — anthropocentric urban ethic?”
Concerning the last two questions, his actions and his designs speak loudly that we can, and we should.

(Images from stefanoboeriarchitetti.net)

READ MORE: Green spaces in cities by RP Siegel

about the author
RP Siegel
Skilled writer. Technology, sustainability, engineering, energy, renewables, solar, wind, poverty, water, food. Studied both English Lit.and Engineering at university level. Inventor.