Plants A Lot: Is China’s ‘Forest City’ the Shape of Workplaces to Come?

China's Forest City


Reports that China has started construction on what is being dubbed the world’s first ‘forest city’ make interesting reading for anyone in the property industry.

The plan to build a new town for 30,000 residents is in itself hardly noteworthy, such is the speed of urban development in China. But what makes the Liuzhou project something out of the ordinary is that, alongside construction of new homes, offices, schools, hospitals and other civic infrastructure, the intention is to plant one million trees.

And not just along the streets to create leafy boulevards, either. The trees will be planted within the structure of the buildings themselves.

This is a development of an idea which has already been put into practice in China. Several cities now boast ‘vertical forests’, or skyscrapers covered with plants.

All of this has stemmed from China’s chronic pollution problem. The hope is, by planting so many trees, CO2 emissions and other pollutants will be absorbed from the atmosphere, replaced by clean oxygen given off by plants.

Is this all just fancy, or have the Chinese struck on something here?

Internal Landscaping

How far even a small city-sized development like this can offset the pollution produced by a rapidly industrialised nation of one billion people is open to question. But the principle is interesting. The effects of mass deforestation on climate change are by now widely accepted. Integrating plant life into urban development, rather than destroying it, sounds like a good solution.

There are other reasons to back this very literal interpretation of ‘green buildings’. There is scientific evidence to support claims that internal landscaping can help improve worker productivity and alleviate workplace stress. The reasons seem to be both physiological and psychological.

Without proper ventilation, closed up indoor spaces, especially where lots of people work, can quickly become stuffy, the air quality becoming poor due to all the oxygen being used up and replaced with CO2. Poor air quality is known to affect concentration, cause drowsiness and even lead to physical symptoms like headaches.

As plants take in CO2 and emit oxygen, indoor landscaping offers an effective way to offset these effects. In addition, it seems that people generally feel more content and positive when they are surrounded by greenery.

This is all food for thought for property owners and facility managers alike. In commercial properties, creating a healthy, vibrant environment is all part and parcel of adding value by supporting productive, happy workers. With pollution, worker health and climate change well established topics in CSR policies, it does not seem so far fetched to believe the ‘vertical forest’ approach could one day catch on.

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