A Green Future For Cities

Paula LaBrot

My eyes had reluctantly adjusted to the draught-ravaged drabness. The burned oaks and orchards. The perpetual khaki of the chaparral dying of thirst. And then we had rain! Good rain, followed by the exuberant explosive renaissance of a resilient biome. My eyes are adjusting back to green. It’s starting to look and feel familiar again.

The energy of this regeneration has been irresistible. The urge to plant was unstoppable this spring. In went a new rose garden and an orchard and lots of native plants. This generous new generation of green has given us blooms and fruit from the get-go.

I love trees. And my wild freeway sunflowers from which I collect seeds for the Seed Bank. Love them! And so do my fellow humans. Despite all the dystopian visions of a climate-changed, barren, broken world to come, guess what? Trees and flowers and all manner of flora are making their way into the highest-tech, most modern architecture of today and the future.



Plants and trees give us so many gifts. We know, through photosynthesis, plants take in CO2 (carbon dioxide) from the air. This combines with water absorbed from root systems to produce carbs (sugars) and oxygen. Extra oxygen is secreted back into the air. That’s really good for humans…cleaning the air, giving us more oxygen, reducing global warming. Wow!

Sciencealert.com reports on the benefits of surrounding ourselves with plants. “Green coverings can significantly reduce air pollutants including soot and dust. Research has shown that even a plant on your desk can improve the quality of the air inside your home.”

Arup is a global company that describes itself as designers, planners, engineers, architects, consultants, and technical specialists, working across every aspect of today’s built environment. They did a study that showed pollutants in the space between two plant-covered buildings can be reduced as much as 20 per cent. Green facades can even help cut down noise pollution.

Plant-covered buildings also mitigate the “Heat Island Effect” that makes densely populated built-up areas much hotter than open spaces. Greenribbon.com reports, “Tall buildings, concrete, and asphalt trap heat and contribute to the warming effect. Waste heat from energy use is another source of additional heat.”

Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water pollution. Arup found, “In the height of summer…a roof covered in vegetation could maintain the same temperature as the ambient air temperature, whereas a non-green roof can get up to an incredible 50 degrees Celsius hotter in the blazing sun (90 degrees Fahrenheit).”

Arup engineers “modeled the effects of greenery in various cities and found that green facades help most in very dense, tall neighborhoods, like the center of Hong Kong, where the facades could lower peak temperatures as much as 10 degrees Celsius. In more sprawling cities, like L.A., it’s more useful to plant greenery at street level.

Greening our cities gives wonderful support to humans, creating feelings of well-being and connection to nature so missed in a world dominated by steel, asphalt, and concrete. How wonderful for urban dwellers to feed themselves fresh produce from vertical gardens on their buildings. How important it is to provide parks everywhere possible.



Green walls need to be thoughtfully, strategically planned. First of all, the plants should be native, climate friendly, and useful to humans and wildlife of the area. There is a lot of engineering in the creation of these walls. According to buildings.com, you have to consider:

  • Plants that have been selected to meet the particular design intent.
  • A modular panel system to contain the roots and the growing medium.
  • An integrated drip irrigation system and controls.
  • A catch basin to control water runoff.
  • A structural support system (dirt and water are heavy).

For commercial projects, Building Design and Construction reports, “Living walls are comprised of a variety of plants in pre-vegetated panels grown in greenhouses and assembled four to six months later on a frame attached to a structural wall. Species are usually selected based upon their tolerance of growing system, site-specific environmental conditions, color, texture, rates of propagation, and root systems. The panels support groundcovers, ferns, low shrubs, perennial flowers, and edible plants. Pre-vegetated living walls offer an instant green wall for immediate impact.”



Vertical facades and planting systems are a hopeful sign for a more mindful future. Canada, Europe and Asia have been actively incorporating the concept into their architecture and city planning for the last fifteen years. There are some lush, gorgeous hotels, apartment buildings and offices around the world already.


For more information about Singapore’s beautiful green buildings that include terraces with trees:



 Let’s grow, USA!

Vamos a ver!


Paula LaBrot

Paula LaBrot is a 30-year resident of Topanga, a futurist with a special interest in the uncharted waters of cyberspace. plabrot@messengermountainnews.com

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