Vertical gardens aren't just architectural fantasies. A striking new high-rise in the Sri Lankan city of Colombo is green-lit for 2016, and will feature 46 stories of external terraces jam-packed with 33,000 trees and shrubs. The setup also doubles as a conservation effort for rare species of mango trees, and the greenery will shade and cool residents, saving on air conditioning costs.
Architect Milroy Perera says he had been waiting for nearly 20 years to construct a living building of this magnitude. In the early '90s, Perera teamed up with architect Geoffrey Bawa to construct the Kandalama Hotel, a building carved into rock face and facing an ancient jungle city called Sigiriya. Inspired by Kandalama's integration of manmade building and the natural environment, Perera spent five years trying to build his vision, called Clearpoint Residencies, on his family's land. The effort took at least 17 different approvals from city and state authorities.
"We wanted something that could improve the environment by being there," Perera says. "We wanted to cut down the carbon footprint of the building. We are trying to do something that's worth doing."
Some 13,000 square feet of solar panels on the roof of the building will generate much of its energy, and the building will reuse residents' bath and toilet water to drip-irrigate plants shading each terrace. Clearpoint will purify and recycle that water in-house, a critical process for homes in a country that deals with seasonal water crises as well as widespread contamination from industrial activities. Perera also plans to plant 500 mango trees, some of which have been made vulnerable by various pests.
Clearpoint's 170 apartments, ranging from 2,300 to 2,400 square feet in size, will be sold for an average $340,000 each. While commercial and residential areas used to be clearly separated under British rule, recent commercialization in Colombo has reshaped the landscape entirely, and many are moving out, Perera said. Clearpoint, he added, will largely cater to doctors, lawyers, retired couples, and young executives "looking for a peaceful life."