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Toronto Might Get a ‘Vertical Forest’ Building With More Than 450 Trees

Walking through Toronto, it’s hard not to rue a landscape increasingly dominated by glass and steel.

But what if there was a way to incorporate the Great Outdoors into the city’s building boom?

That’s what architect Brian Brisbin of the Toronto firm Brisbin Brook Beynon is looking to achieve with the 27-storey Designers Walk building, a structure complete with more than 450 trees.

vertical forest building
Public Domain City of Toronto Planning/ Brisbin Brook Beynon

“A vertical forest is really like a hillside. It’s not potted plants on a decorated building. The building is really a host, like a hillside,” said Brisbin in an interview with the Globe and Mail. It also adds another $20 million to the cost of the project.

‘Vertical Forest’ buildings, as they’re called, are often as much of a marketing initiative as they are ecological solution. But Brisin insists that despite the challenges of his design – maintenance, doubts about actually achieving carbon neutrality, what would happen to a sky forest during a storm, WINTER, tree growth, – that there is in fact a green side.

“Trees on a building while borrowing from the idea of a forest are a long way from having the true ecological structure of a forest. But the objective is to increase biomass, biodiversity and canopy cover,” said Robert Wright, the University of Toronto’s dean of the Faculty of Forestry, in a tweet to Treehugger writer Lloyd Alter.

Bosco Verticale
Stefano Boeri’s Bosco Verticale in Milan opened in October 2014

The Designers Walk building has filed a development application and must now await approval from the City and hopes to bring the vertical forest movement – kickstarted in 2014 by Stefano Boeri’s Bosco Verticale in Milan – to Toronto as a long-term initiative. If approved, it will occupy a plot of land adjacent to Designers Walk at the intersection of the Annex and Yorkville.

Christian Nathler

Christian Nathler is a contributing writer at Notable Life.