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Cambridge University Science Magazine
Over 4 billion humans now live in urban areas, with numbers continuing to climb. Our landscapes are becoming dominated by the spiralling concrete expanse, the natural world often excluded at the cost of more office space. The Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL combines scientific research with engineering to develop new bio-receptive materials, weaving greenery into our sterile structures.

High density cities fall victim to increased temperatures, humidity, water stress, and increased vulnerability to flooding. Tackling these challenges, architects have designed hydrophilic bio concrete surfaces which efficiently absorb water and provide scaffolds for colonisation by poikilohydric plants such as algae, lichens, and mosses. These tree-like facades can improve storm-water management and offset carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and other urban pollutants. Unlike traditional monoculture green walls, bio-concrete walls require no irrigation and maintenance, exploiting the natural resilience of poikilohydric plant communities that have plagued structures for centuries.

Instead of a sterile world of concrete and steel, future buildings should integrate plant colonisation into their superstructure. The phrase ‘concrete jungle’ could become truly accurate, describing a breathing photosynthetic forest city that protects us from the self-imposed perils of urban life.

Article by Bartek Witek.

Image credit: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

Image licence: Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The original image has been cropped