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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

Green Architecture Spotlight: The Sprouting Building

by Kristin Standley

Tags: green architecture spotlight, sprouting building, immeuble qui pousse, chateau le lez, edouard francois, green design,

Edouard Francois’ Immeuble qui Pousse, or Sprouting Building, at a first glance might remind you of a giant Chia Pet. With ingenious design, live plants blossom along the rock walls of this apartment building to create a living green facade.

sprouting building before
Photo Courtesy Designboom.

Built in Montpellier, France, along the banks of the Lez River, this massive plant-covered rock structure blends into the landscape. The building was completed in 2000 and contains 64 apartments. Each apartment is oriented east or west along a central corridor, and the building gradually.

The building arcs gently with the surrounding landscape and has a large stone base. Rustic timber balconies are cantilevered out from the main structure and look like little tree houses. Each balcony has a flower stand for climbing plants, adding to the building’s overall vegetation. The concrete walls are covered in gabion baskets, which are typically used as retaining elements in river or highway engineering.

gabion baskets
Photo Courtesy Urban Habitat, Univeristy of Virginia.

Francois prefabricated the gabion baskets on the site in 9-by-4.5-feet panels. To assemble each panel he began with a steel cage steel framework and studded with a double layer of frost-resistant pebbles and lava. The layer of lava would help with moisture control for the plants because of its porous nature. Next he added a layer of sand followed by a layer of seeds and soil. The sand prevented the plants from growing into and destroying the structure of the concrete. Finally, Francois set the ends of the steel cages in the concrete that formed the inner face of the panel, and reinforced the edges.

Stainless steel anchors tied the panels to the concrete structure behind them. Gabion walls are very green in their construction, but also create a well-insulated and well-ventilated building. A watering system was easily created between the joints of the panels to nurture the plants that would cover the facade.

sprouting building now
Photo Courtesy Urban Habitat, University of Virginia.

Before Francois completed the building, the apartments sold out. The living facade of the building was unique and green, but did not sacrifice the comfort of the residents inside. Edouard Francois has continued to design green-covered buildings, and many other architects have picked up his innovations. Perhaps in the future all buildings will be living gardens, helping us create a more sustainable and beautiful planet.