Tak­ing root

Toronto is to be­come home to a ten-storey build­ing that cre­ates a self-sus­tain­ing com­mu­nity, an ice-skat­ing rink in Rus­sia fea­tures pho­to­voltaic cells which help it op­er­ate through­out the year and San Francisco-based Shiyu Guo has de­signed a planter and a

Identity - - ECO - TEXT: STEVE HILL


Toronto is to be­come home to The Plant, a ten-storey con­do­minium build­ing that cre­ates a self-sus­tain­ing, self-re­liant res­i­den­tial com­mu­nity.

Food-fo­cused ameni­ties in­clude an in­ter­nal green­house/nurs­ery to grow plants and cul­ti­vate seeds, as well as an in­dus­trial-style kitchen de­signed to ac­com­mo­date food prepa­ra­tion and host so­cial events.

The devel­op­ment also fea­tures re­tail and of­fice spa­ces on the first and sec­ond floors, along with res­i­den­tial units so that oc­cu­pants can com­fort­ably live, work and grow in one place.

Cu­rated Prop­er­ties and Wind­mill De­vel­op­ments are work­ing to­gether on the project on a for­mer bak­ery site.

Adam Ochshorn, part­ner at Cu­rated Prop­er­ties, said: “When you con­sider two-thirds of all hu­mans will soon be city-dwellers, hav­ing to choose be­tween an ur­ban res­i­dence or the abil­ity to com­fort­ably grow your herbs and veg­eta­bles no longer makes sense.”

De­sign­ers hope to re­cruit like-minded busi­nesses and of­fice ten­ants that will am­plify The Plant’s ded­i­ca­tion to sus­tain­abil­ity and re­in­force a project-wide lifestyle.

A to­tal of 77 res­i­den­tial units are planned. In­side each suite, cus­tom mi­cro-gar­den beds for fresh herbs will be built into side­cars in the kitchen.

The suites them­selves are wide and shal­low, as op­posed to the typ­i­cal shoe box, max­imis­ing sun ex­po­sure. Each unit will come with a ter­race or bal­cony with am­ple space for plants, fur­ni­ture and a bar­be­cue. Out­door space is op­ti­mised through an an­gu­lar con­struc­tion, en­abling sun­light to flow unim­peded into the suites.

Jonathan Westeinde, CEO of Wind­mill, added: “The bal­conies and ter­races at The Plant are re­ally more like an eight-storey porch.

“They have their own struc­ture, with rail­ings and lat­tices, as well as a ther­mal break. So not only are they large and spa­cious, but they’re ori­en­tated to work with the sun and en­cour­age plant life to take hold.”


Ford is step­ping up re­search into the use of bam­boo in its range of ve­hi­cles.

Com­pany of­fi­cials be­lieve it is very pos­si­ble that some in­te­rior sur­faces in cars could be made from a com­bi­na­tion of plas­tic and what has been called ‘na­ture’s won­der ma­te­rial’.

Janet Yin, a ma­te­ri­als en­gi­neer­ing su­per­vi­sor at Ford’s Nan­jing Re­search & En­gi­neer­ing Cen­tre, said: “Bam­boo is amaz­ing. It’s strong, flex­i­ble, to­tally re­new­able, and plen­ti­ful in China and many other parts of Asia.”

Ford has dis­cov­ered that bam­boo per­forms com­pre­hen­sively bet­ter than other syn­thetic and nat­u­ral fi­bres in a range of ma­te­ri­als tests look­ing at char­ac­ter­is­tics from ten­sile strength to im­pact strength.

It has also been heated to more than 100 de­grees Cel­cius to en­sure it can main­tain its in­tegrity.

Ford al­ready uses sev­eral sus­tain­able ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing Ke­naf, a trop­i­cal plant from the cot­ton fam­ily, which can be found in the door bol­sters of the Ford Es­cape, while post­con­sumer cot­ton from denim and T-shirts is used as in­te­rior pad­ding and sound in­su­la­tion in most Ford ve­hi­cles.

Other sus­tain­able ini­tia­tives in­clude the use of re­cy­cled plas­tic bot­tles which are trans­formed into floor car­pet­ing, and re­cy­cled post-con­sumer tyres which are turned into seals and gas­kets.


Otunba Of­fices, a new low-cost and sus­tain­able of­fice build­ing cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion in the Nige­rian cap­i­tal of La­gos, has been com­mended in the Ar­chi­tec­tural Review MIPIM Fu­ture Projects Awards.

De­signed by Beirut-based Do­maine Pub­lic Ar­chi­tects, it fea­tures a re­duced build­ing foot­print – less than 20 per cent of hor­i­zon­tal cov­er­age – which helps pre­serve the nat­u­ral land­scape, with un­built sur­faces al­low­ing for ex­cess rain­wa­ter ab­sorp­tion.

The build­ing’s ori­en­ta­tion means it nat­u­rally shades it­self from the trop­i­cal sun on its western and south­ern façades.

A dual layer of veg­e­ta­tion, flex­i­ble lou­vers and nat­u­ral ven­ti­la­tion based on site ori­en­ta­tion min­imise the project’s eco­log­i­cal foot­print and re­liance on me­chan­i­cal sys­tems for cool­ing.

Karim Fakhry, in­ter­na­tional prin­ci­pal at Do­maine Pub­lic Ar­chi­tects, said: “The Otunba project truly serves as an af­ford­able, sus­tain­able model for con­struc­tion in fast eco­nomic growth set­tings.

“It em­pha­sises eco­nom­i­cal sus­tain­able con­cepts [and is] eas­ily repli­cated with min­i­mal fi­nan­cial im­pact on project bud­get.”


The front end of a 1950s vin­tage Willys Jeep has been trans­formed into a strik­ing of­fice desk by English com­pany Smithers of Stam­ford.

It comes com­plete with two work­ing head­lights and two draw­ers made from re­claimed wooden teak.

The desk is de­scribed as “very ro­bust… it’s lasted 60-odd years in a scrap yard and with the up­cy­cling will last an­other 60 years.”

Smithers of Stam­ford is an on­line vin­tage, in­dus­trial, retro fur­ni­ture and light­ing store “born out of a pas­sion for Lam­bret­tas, retro cloth­ing, soul mu­sic and many vis­its to Carn­aby Street and Brick Lane, Lon­don.”


Sprout is a planter and air fresh­ener pow­ered by an elas­tic thin-film so­lar panel.

In­vented by San Francisco-based in­dus­trial de­signer Ray­mond (Shiyu Guo), it also aims to give chil­dren an idea of how plants fil­ter car­bon diox­ide and pro­duce clean air.

The ‘leaf’ of the sprout is com­posed of in­tel­li­gent elas­tic ma­te­rial and cov­ered by a so­lar panel; it also fea­tures a light sen­sor.

Air is ab­sorbed into the sprout from the mid­dle hole of the leaf, while fresh air is re­leased from the out­let to the plant.

The plant shakes be­cause of the flow of fresh air and the leaf closes when dark­ness falls, be­com­ing dor­mant be­cause of the lack of sun­light.


An ice-skat­ing rink lo­cated on a nat­u­ral lake in the Kam­chatka penin­sula in Rus­sia fea­tures pho­to­voltaic cells which help it op­er­ate through­out the year.

De­signed by Mar­got Kra­so­je­vić, the so­lar pan­els are at­tached to a canopy ac­com­mo­dat­ing light­ing and cinema pro­jec­tor out­lets, and gen­er­ate an electric cur­rent which helps freeze the lake for ice hockey tour­na­ments.

This power is also utilised through the pro­vi­sion of charg­ing and dock­ing sta­tions, with un­used en­ergy be­ing fed back into the grid.

The so­lar cinema is home to an en­tirely self-suf­fi­cient pro­jec­tor which can throw images onto the ice-cov­ered sur­faces of the skat­ing rink, an­i­mat­ing the de­sign and pre­sent­ing it as an all-year, all-sea­sons sports and well­ness cen­tre.

Ca­pac­i­tors store elec­tri­cal en­ergy for night­time use while geo­ther­mal tur­bines gen­er­ate enough elec­tric­ity to be pow­ered back into the grid, en­sur­ing an eco-friendly ice-skat­ing rink.

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