Whether you live in a concrete jungle or have scenic vistas from your balcony, if you can get to a woodsy area, you might want to give “forest bathing” a shot. Shinrin-yoku – or “forest bathing” in Japanese – has been found to reduce anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, anger and stress. Along those lines, visionary architects in some key cities are helping apartment residents get closer to trees – lots of trees – with interesting results.
Benefits of Trees
First, let’s touch on why you should seek out forests. Studies have shown that spending some time in the vicinity of many trees affords relaxation and builds your natural defenses. Additionally, breathing in some of a forest’s essential oils, which contain phytoncides and are antimicrobial, ward off infection.
The ritual of strolling through a woodsy or forested region is being studied by Western medicine and has long been incorporated into a healthy lifestyle.
The International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology published a report which stated that “Visiting a forest… increases human natural [cancer cell] killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins”.
Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Yet both allopathic and homeopathic studies point to the fact that our bodies, as complex as they are, are known to react positively to simple healthy foods, habits, environments, thoughts and energy …and, yes, to nature.
Examples of Trees in Apartment Buildings
There are towns that have taken this theory one step further and have designed entire apartment complexes around trees. The result? Not only do the trees provide a calming effect and medical benefits, but situating an apartment building around a mini-forest reduces pollution. Too, living in a forested area is energy-efficient – the home stays cooler in the summer and well insulated in the winter.
So which cities are doing this?
Thus far, Turin, Italy, in the Northern part of the country, has set an impactful example. The apartment building at 25 Verde houses 150 trees – all in capacious pots placed on terraces especially designed to hold them. When one looks up at the complex from the street, one sees – and sniffs — the wonderful essence of a wild forest.
The entire building is built around a courtyard, which contains 50 more trees. So that’s a total of 200 trees which would never have been there, otherwise.
A walk down a typical Turin street doesn’t turn up many trees! Now, at 25 Verde, Apartment dwellers are gazing out on something lovely and living, and not just at concrete slabs.
Much of the noise pollution of a busy city is eliminated, too, as the branches and foliage serve as a canopy to buffer it. The truly amazing part is the amount of CO2 that’s absorbed. You’ve heard that trees are the lungs of the earth, right? Well, in this case, 200,000 liters or 845,351 cups of CO2 per hour are reduced as these trees do their respiratory thing.
The apartment building is five stories high – not exactly a high-rise, but it’s about as high as one can reasonably go and not encounter difficulties. A high-rise would not be able to sustain all those trees, as the wind and air quality would not be suitable.
Singapore, too, has tried its hand at tree-laden apartment buildings.with similarly great results. The aptly-named Tree House is a condo that houses a world-record-holding vertical garden 24 stories high! The garden has sustainable technologies – which means it makes it less energy-wasteful – and motion sensors, which turn on the lights only when needed. Additionally, special heat-reducing windows have been installed.
In both of these avante gardeapartment building– and hopefully in many more to come – residents are able to access good mental and physical health, and to gaze out on natural beauty. These magnificent benefits, and the aid to our environment, are reason enough to put the word out that we need to interact more with Nature, in our apartment buildings – and in our communities! Shinrin-yoku, anyone?