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A "mutated constructing" in Milan saves vitality and delights the residents

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From paintings and literature to music and film, nature is an inspiration to many.

The influence on architecture can also be seen in a number of interesting developments that now include plants and trees in their design.

An example of this is the Bosco Verticale or Vertical Forest, an Italian housing estate with two visually striking towers that are 80 and 112 meters high.

In an episode of CNBC's "Sustainable Energy" earlier this year, the exteriors of the buildings located in Milan's Porta Nuova are covered in plants and trees.

Speaking to CNBC, Stefano Boeri, the architect behind the design, described the vertical forest as "a very simple thing: it's a way to focus on a very small urban surface … thousands of plants".

The design of this "mutated building", as Boeri puts it, also offers its residents a number of interesting advantages.

"I've lived in Bosco Verticale since it opened," said Simona Pizzi. "It doesn't feel like we live in the middle of busy Milan where everything moves pretty quickly," she added.

"Having these plants right on the terrace, real trees, has certainly had a positive effect on my life. It lowers the temperature in summer and it feels like these plants have created a microclimate, it's very pleasant."

The design has also had an impact on individual energy consumption. "Thanks to this greenhouse effect, we use less heat in winter and less air conditioning in summer because the air is cooler," explained Pizzi.

The power of wood

Another architect featured in Sustainable Energy this year is Michael Green from Vancouver from Michael Green Architecture (MGA). The practice has placed great emphasis on the integration of wood in their designs.

Take the T3 Minneapolis building in Minnesota. Completed in 2016, this structure uses more than 1,100 panels of nailed plywood (NLT). According to the MGA, most of the NLT used in the building consists "of wood from trees that were killed by the mountain beetle".

In an interview with CNBC that aired back in May, MGA's Green wanted to highlight the potential environmental benefits of using wood in the construction process.

"Forestry is a complicated animal and (in) different parts of the world. In some places it is not sustainable. We are not replanting quickly," he said.

"But if we get it right – which means we are replanting – we can actually create a harmony where we grow more trees, young trees fix carbon faster than old trees, and we can actually create a cycle of planting and using Trees create wood that actually captures more carbon than if we had just left the forest as a native forest. "

A need for balance

Green articulates the need for balance and harmony and is repeated by others.

For example, in France, Stéphane Hallaire, the president and founder of a social enterprise called Reforest & # 39; Action, was asked about the conditions under which wood-based design models need to work and be truly sustainable.

"To be truly sustainable, you need to use trees that are locally, ideally, grown in sustainable, managed forests," he explained.

"We have to be very careful not to destroy forests to build houses or buildings," he added. "If we build every single house out of wood, the forest may not be enough to provide the wood."

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Katherine Clark