If you have $340,000 and can move to Sri Lanka by 2016, you could basically live in a 46-story-tall forest

Milroy Perera was previously the architect of note on the Kandalama Hotel in Sri Lanka (video profile above), which is carved into a rock face and faces out towards an ancient jungle. (“You’re not a guest; you’re part of nature.”) Now he’s got a new plan: something called Clearpoint Residencies, in Colombo (a Sri Lankan city). What’s that, you ask? Glad you did.

It’s essentially a 46-story tall vertical garden of apartments, ranging from 2,300 to 2,400 square feet and costing about $340,000 per. (There will be 170 units in the building.) Here’s the essence of what you need to know:

Some 13,000 square feet of solar panels on the roof of the building will generate much of its energy, and the building will reuse residents’ bath and toilet water to drip-irrigate plants shading each terrace. Clearpoint will purify and recycle that water in-house, a critical process for homes in a country that deals with seasonal water crises as well as widespread contamination from industrial activities. Perera also plans to plant 500 mango trees, some of which have been made vulnerable by various pests.

Basically, this is straight-up sustainable architecture at its finest. Here’s more on the project (with more photos), including this mission statement gem:

According to the architects, Clearpoint will “be pioneering sustainable residences in Sri Lanka, with the aim of taking urban living forward while still maintaining a balance with nature and the surrounding environment, the main focus of the apartments being to create a sentiment of ground level living. Measures will be in place to reduce energy and water consumption, including the use of solar energy for communal spaces.”

I actually like this idea, although it’s probably not tremendously feasible in the United States right now. It often seems that the way homes/houses are built has literally nothing to do with the outside environment — even, sometimes, the decor of the neighborhood. If a home could be a functioning part of the environment around it — because, essentially, isn’t that how society began? — that would be pretty cool. I wouldn’t say the idea of sustainable architecture has caught on globally yet, but it’s cropping up in some places you might not expect — like Eco Modern Flats in Fayeteville, Arkansas (home of the University of Arkansas). Here’s what they have, in addition to a walkability score of 80:

Green design inside and out includes solar hot water, landscaping with native plants, innovative heating and cooling systems, and rainwater harvesting. Dramatic freestanding cisterns capture rainwater which is used to water garden areas during dry spells, conserving water and protecting our watershed. Our construction practices are easy on the Earth, while natural cleaning products and no-VOC paints are kind to your health, too.

This idea of housing working in concert with the environment, instead of being plopped down and taking from the environment, is cool; it’s also expensive, and the bottom line has to dictate a lot of building decisions. Maybe this goes back to making clean tech more scalable? 

Ted Bauer