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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 1, 2010 1:38 PM. The previous post in this blog was The OHSU tram as parking shuttle. The next post in this blog is She's asking for it. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Who will prune the facade?

The la-la plan to grow vines up the side of the federal building draws an amused look from the New York Times.

Comments (18)

Vegetated walls really aren't that stupid.

Vertical growing vines can do a lot for climate control and energy savings as well as be very aesthetic.

There was no mention of how much the vertical garden would cost specifically, and much of the total costs of the building are actually attributed to might other factors not related to this specific design element...such as security design measures as mentioned in the article.

I'd be curious to know, because all it is is a vine in soil.

I've already been fielding questions from friends about this, and I've been sending them in your direction, Jack. As is typical for New York Times boosterism of Portland (where I'm starting to wonder if its editors are getting kickbacks from the city in exchange for positive press), it conveniently leaves out all of the legitimate concern over whether this is actually going to be started, much less whether it's going to be finished. Yes, it's a great idea, but so are faster-than-light communication and colonies on Mars.

Vertical growing vines can do a lot for climate control and energy savings

Prove it. In my experience, neither is true. Will vines provide shade? Sure. Does that "do a lot for climate control and energy savings"? No.

The "savings" that the architects are claiming are largely attributed to mechanical and insulatory improvements, not a green wall.

And, you'll notice that nobody knows how its going to work--but that's not stopping them from claiming it'll provide near-miraculous benefits.

In other words--a skyscraper can never be "green", no matter how many leaves you glue to it.

Hey, medical Mary Jane and recover the cost!

I was actually referring to climate control for the outdoor environment, not indoor, just to clarify. It reduces the urban heat island effect and plants cool the air through evapo-transpiration.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evapotranspiration

Turning a south facing glass/concrete wall into a vegetated biotic system will reduce air temperatures, reduce VOCs, and capture and process stormwater that falls on the buildings.

Yes, the insulation factor of the plants actually shielding the building from taking in any rays in the summer would reduce energy cooling costs drastically. It's the difference between being in complete shade during a hot day and not being in shade. You don't need numbers to quantify that.

http://www.vegitecture.net/

"In other words--a skyscraper can never be "green", no matter how many leaves you glue to it."

Actually, skyscraper living/business is quite possibly the most sustainable thing someone could do -- depending on density and FAR, among other factors (for instance, SoWA actually is not very dense regarding dwelling units/acre despite its 30 story towers). Psstt, oh yeah NYC has the lowest energy use per capita in the US.

Or, better yet, what's your vision for sustainable living and business? 6.7 billion people living in single-family homes doesn't sound like one of them.

It worked for the Ivy League.

I was actually referring to climate control for the outdoor environment, not indoor, just to clarify. It reduces the urban heat island effect and plants cool the air through evapo-transpiration.

Again, the details are what matter. First, the vertical surface does little or nothing to mitigate "heat island" effect. Second, of course wet plants will cool and the water will evaporate, returning to the atmosphere. But that tiny, tiny effect--even if you multiplied it and put it on 3000 walls downtown--would have a minimal effect. *Minimal*.

Yes, the insulation factor of the plants actually shielding the building from taking in any rays in the summer would reduce energy cooling costs drastically. It's the difference between being in complete shade during a hot day and not being in shade. You don't need numbers to quantify that.

If you're going to spend millions of dollars of taxpayer money, you *do* need "numbers" to quantify that, actually. Otherwise, why should anybody pay for it? Faith? Aesthetic value? You're trying to justify something by refusing to justify it.

Actually, skyscraper living/business is quite possibly the most sustainable thing someone could do -- depending on density and FAR, among other factors

There's a whole world in the words "depending on density and FAR, among other factors". But more simply--bull. The amount of raw, extractive materials that go into building a 15-20 story skyscraper will never, ever be "sustainable". Unless, that is, you've discovered a replacement for steel, aluminum, plastic, glass, and a thousand other similar materials.

But more simply, it's ridiculous to say that denser living/working is somehow more "sustainable". You're making one of the most fundamental mistakes about ecological and economic systems--forgetting that the larger a city gets, the wider it's consumption footprint gets. Portland, for example, requires an enormous (and ever increasing) amount of resources and materials just to function. Most of those--like, say, those extractive processes required to build a skyscraper--have a virtual "footprint" that stretches for miles (often hundreds of miles) in every direction.


Or, better yet, what's your vision for sustainable living and business? 6.7 billion people living in single-family homes doesn't sound like one of them.

I have an answer: 6.7 billion people wanting to live in modern fashion is not sustainable. Even if you stack them high in boxes and put the boxes close together and cover them in green vines.

Plant green beans like a super duper Kentucky Wonder, that way they can be sold at the nearby PSU Farmers' Market and provide jobs and reduce the deficit.

Ecohuman:"Again, the details are what matter. First, the vertical surface does little or nothing to mitigate "heat island" effect. Second, of course wet plants will cool and the water will evaporate, returning to the atmosphere. But that tiny, tiny effect--even if you multiplied it and put it on 3000 walls downtown--would have a minimal effect. *Minimal*."

ws:First, yes vertical faces do have an impact on the urban heat island, among other things. Any place where sun touches a mass conducive to storing heat is going to have an impact.

How can you say the affect of greenwalls on 3,000 walls in downtown would be minimal? You say I need numbers, then you make a terrible estimate yourself.

I provided a good link to a website that may offer a good insight into this issue. I am reasonably familiar with greenroofs (actual raw data of their performance in the real world) and I am merely extrapolating on my knowledge of plants and architecture. Yes, a wall of plants in an urbanized environment can have a reasonable impact on nearby environmental conditions.

I'm not going to waste my time in providing every last detail to some Luddite "ecohuman" who writes a little-viewed blog and has God knows what background to substantiate any such claims that greenwalls are a waste of time and money.

Ecohuman:"If you're going to spend millions of dollars of taxpayer money, you *do* need "numbers" to quantify that, actually. Otherwise, why should anybody pay for it? Faith? Aesthetic value? You're trying to justify something by refusing to justify it."

ws:My comments are not in regards to this specific project, but rather geared towards the general promotion of greenroofs and greenwalls.

Ecohuman:There's a whole world in the words "depending on density and FAR, among other factors". But more simply--bull. The amount of raw, extractive materials that go into building a 15-20 story skyscraper will never, ever be "sustainable". Unless, that is, you've discovered a replacement for steel, aluminum, plastic, glass, and a thousand other similar materials.

ws:I agree in general that building materials in any building these days is a huge issue. You're missing the systematic equation here. W/o building up you're building out. Building out consumes resources and land for infrastructure, lots, etc.

What's the total net environmental equation of 6.7 billion people in tall buildings vs. 6.7 billion people in "eco-friendly" low density homes? (I'm not arguing all of humanity move into tall buildings, btw, so don't pull me into that logic).

A skyscraper is usually a bit taller than 15-20 stories according to most definitions. This building really In fact, load bearing masonry units could reach that high in the late 1800s.

ecohuman:"But more simply, it's ridiculous to say that denser living/working is somehow more "sustainable". You're making one of the most fundamental mistakes about ecological and economic systems--forgetting that the larger a city gets, the wider it's consumption footprint gets."

ws:No, it doesn't. Provide some numbers. Would you care to compare a low-density, ex-urban McMansionized lifestyle in Dallas to that of a high density tower NYC lifestyle in Manhattan?

http://www.city-journal.org/2009/19_1_green-cities.html

At least in terms of energy use, denser living is more sustainable. You're using less energy and using transit/waking/biking more. I suppose, though, you're using a bicycle to generate your power for your home?

It's a good idea..I am excited for this project....that building is hella ugly...money well spent...especially in comparison to any number of other federal money wastes (like at least half our "defense" spending)

"WS", I'm still interested in some proof of all the benefits of both vertical "green faces", and the "sustainability" of skyscrapers.

And the opposite of "skyscrapers" or "density" is not "suburbia". You see, I'm not claiming that sprawl or being spread out in suburbia is the answer; I'm saying there is no sustainability with the current lifestyle we lead. Period. Any attempt to justify it as such is disingenuine at best, and profoundly dishonest at worst.

This means that plopping green facades on [insert your meaningful term for dense, tall buildings here] is just a way of making ourselves feel better.

The problems of "unsustainability" aren't solved by throwing millions at a "bicycle plan", or a dozen "streetcars". Not even these together. The real problems of ecological unsustainability are inherent in attempting to have our cake and eat it too. So, while we chase boutique efforts like multi-million dollar "green walls", a thousand other net effects completely cancel it out and make it irrelevant.

Or if you'd like a simpler topic, try this: define what sustainable means for buildings.

I'm glad the mess in Washington DC has been cleaned up so we can begin to discuss important stuff.

I'm OK with it all as long as the vines are indigenous and organic soil is used.

ecohuman:"The real problems of ecological unsustainability are inherent in attempting to have our cake and eat it too."

ws:The issue is your line of thinking does not accept that there is a market out there that probably does not want to give up modern conveniences.

I don't disagree that our consumer habits are an ecological disaster -- an no Prius or streetcar line will save the world, and I agree whole-heartedly with you on this that the Al-Gore-Greeny way of thinking is a debasement of the word "sustainable".

I actually prefer not to use the words "sustainable" or "green" to describe a building, though I used it only in reference to a point you made in a previous comment about skyscrapers.

Even so, any dwelling unit no matter how it is made is not sustainable. To live is to take, and to take is to have an impact on the environment in some way or another.

Teeing off on the first comment on this sad diatribe: Not it really is stupid!

It is all pizzing in the wind , lads , there are 2-3 times more humans on the planet than it can support. The ONLY thing you can do is stop breeding , and teach others to do the same.

I think they should plant onions and then it can be Leek certified.

Before I would even consider such an idea I'd first ask a botanist what type of deciduous vine could live in that environment, and how much energy and maintenance would be necessary to keep it thriving and how many years it would take to grow it to a size that would be effective and would light levels be uniform enough for the foliage to produce uniform shade from top to bottom. That they seem not to have considered that in the design strikes me as pathetic.


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