The plan to build skyscrapers with trees

Treehouse: Cities inspired by trees could soon be growing all over the world. © Luca Locatelli

Are living cities a realistic way to fight climate change? A new design for a tower made of living trees has won a prize. It could change how we live – but might be too hard to build.

What’s happening

The boy steps into the New York City lift. He looks at the buttons to choose from. Trunk, Branches. He presses his floor: Treetop.

The lift whizzes straight up. Wooden walls and floors zoom past. Finally, he gets to the top. The door opens and he steps out into the canopy and looks at the view.

Find out more

This could soon be a reality. A team of architects from Ukraine has come up with an idea for a skyscraper grown from trees.

The team won a design competition with their plan. Their building would be made out of trees that are genetically modified to grow quickly.

As the trunks and branches grow, the team plans to shape them around the frame of a tower block.

The plan would add to green space in a city. It would also be good for the environment. Building materials like concrete add to CO2 emissions. Instead, a living building would suck CO2 out of the air.

Supporters say whole cities could be built this way. But others say the technology is too difficult to use.

Are living cities a realistic way to fight climate change?

Some say…

Yes! The idea might sound crazy, but it is possible. Artists have already used the same science to create chairs, tables and lamps out of living trees. This is just a much bigger version of the same thing. Living buildings would not only help fight climate change. They would make cities nicer to live in. Of course they are realistic!

Others think…

No, they are a crazy idea! Even with technology, the trees would take years to grow. Even if it is possible to have one skyscraper in New York, this is not the same as a whole city. It would be impossible to create them fast enough. We are better off finding easier ways to fight the climate crisis.

You Decide

  1. Would you live in a living skyscraper?

Activities

  1. Come up with a design for a building that will help the environment. Draw a picture of it and label it to explain what it will do.

Some People Say...

“I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline.”

Ayn Rand (1905 – 1982), Russian-American writer

What do you think?

Word Watch

Canopy
A word that describes the outer layer of leaves on a tree, or in a group of trees.
Reality
Reality is anything that exists. If something is a reality, it is real.
Architects
An architect is somebody who designs buildings.
Skyscraper
A very tall building. Its name describes the idea that the top is scraping the clouds above it.
Genetically modified
Something whose genes have been changed – or modified – for a specific purpose.
CO2 emissions
When a gas is let off from something, like a car, it is an emission. Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
Suck
All plants use CO2 in a process called photosynthesis which gives them energy to survive. Forests are sometimes called carbon sinks because they use so much.

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