Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Taking urban gardening to new heights
Artists rendering of the proposed renovation of the Federal Building in Portland, Oregon. The building will have “vegetated fins” that grow more than 200 feet high on the western side of the building, a vertical garden that changes with the seasons -- leafing out and providing shade in the spring and summer while loosing the leaves and allowing light in the winter. The end result? An expected savings of $280,000 per year in energy costs.
The project, however, is mired in controversy, partly because of design issues -- a process for irrigating the fins hasn't yet been incorporated into the design -- but mainly because of the cost. The government views it as a demonstration project; aimed at testing the actual benefits of a conceptual idea. That's a legitimate approach, but there then needs to be some way of assessing the efficiency of the design and, if the design turns out to be effective, to diffuse the concept within the design community. This is not unlike the problems with the LEED standards for green buildings in general, where LEED certification is based on the design of the building rather than its operation and, once built, the buildings turn out not to be as green as expected.