The federal government is planning to cultivate a vertical urban garden on the side of an 18-story building in downtown Portland, Ore.
As part of a $133 million renovation, the General Services Administration wants to grow "vegetated fins" on the western facade of the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building.
The goal: save energy year-round using one of Mother Nature's own tools.
The agency says the building will use 60 to 65 percent less energy than comparable buildings. That translates to an energy cost savings of $280,000 per year.
Solar panels could also provide up to 15 percent of the building’s power needs. Energy use for lighting will be halved.
As you can imagine, maintaining a 200-foot high vertical garden is a challenge.
For irrigation, the project's design firm, Cutler Anderson, say rainwater captured on the roof or recycled water from the building's plumbing could be used. The use of rainwater and low-flow plumbing fixtures will reduce potable water consumption by 68 percent, the agency says.
As for pruning, window washers have been suggested to do the task.
The building in question was already slated for an energy efficiency upgrade, but funds from last year's federal stimulus package stressed projects that were environmentally friendly.
The building is being renovated under the GSA's new Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings. Overseen by SERA Architects, it is the largest federal stimulus project in the entire state of Oregon.
The projects cost is hotly debated. In December, Republican senators John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma both criticized the cost of the project.
Worse, residents wonder if the building's cost per-square-foot exceeds that of a brand-new, environmentally-friendly building.
The rub: will you spend more money to reduce energy and costs than you'll save over the lifetime of the project?
The renovation is scheduled to be completed by 2013.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com