Joshua Kogan has a conversation with Urbanarbolismo's Spain Jordi Serramia Ruiz regarding his work with plant-based methods of sustainable design
What is urbanarbolismo? What's your philosophy?
We are an architectural firm specializing in the integration of vegetation and architecture. We work where vegetation can be instrumentalized to save energy, manage water resources, reduced impact on the landscape, and improve the environmental quality of the architecture.
What do you consider sustainable architecture?
We try not to use the term sustainable architecture when it comes to our work. In most cases sustainable architecture is analogous to wearing a sweater instead of turning up the heat (even sustainable heating). In our work we integrate architecture vegetation, sometimes in a more sustainable way (by common practice), and sometimes less.
Discuss the effects of your biowall designs, on the internal environments of buildings, from both an user and owner perspective.
All plants regulate the humidity and remove, to a greater or lesser extent, chemicals in the air. There are some species particularly effective against contaminants such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and benzene, for example: Nephrolepsis exaltata, Potos Epipremnum Aureum, Philodendron scandens, Chrysalidocarpus lutescens, and Chlorophytum comosum. Our biowalls are designed specifically for each project's end use, and appropriate vegetation is selected to most efficiently remediate the air within the structure.
And what about the exterior effect on buildings as a result of your roof and vertical garden/wall systems?
The benefits of the use of cover crops on a large-scale, are well known: reduced runoff, reduced heat island effect, absorption of solids in suspension. The vertical gardens are not as effective as large ground covers but have a great effect on the absorption of pollutants in the cities because the root of the plant is more exposed than other types of gardens.
Going beyond the reduction of heat island effect in cities, please explain your Alicante project -- in this case, the vegetation influenced the climate?
In Alicante we have very special conditions, we have mountains over 1000m in altitude to less than 10km from the Mediterranean Sea. The moisture provided by the vegetation in the path of the wind from the sea to the mountains is key to the formation of storms. Any moisture that can contribute to vegetation in cities like Benidorm has a direct impact on producing more rain.
Vegetation design is even being used to adjust wind paths, please explain your work in this field.
There are situations where buildings are exposed to the wind, the thermal behavior of these buildings can significantly improve plantcreating barriers that protect the building from prevailing winds. An example is our project of Don Leandro Bed .
When will cities begin to take advantage of the effects you demonstrate through your projects? where's the industry today, and where will it be 5, 10, and 20 years from now?
Indeed we can change the weather, as well as rain and wind patterns -- we have -- but with current economic conditions the realization of such projects globally is utopia.