Baubotanik is a term first used by the Institute of Modern Architecture and Design IGMA at the University of Stuttgart. Baubotanik describes a new technique and method using living plants as load bearing systems in architectural structures.
The German word “Baubotanik” by itself means the connection between “construction” and “botanic” This is a contradiction in terms. The attempt to combine the statics of architectural structures with the bio-dynamics of living plants and their natural growth is very demanding but at the same time offers huge opportunities in urban areas.
According to Ferdinand Ludwig, “one of the key techniques of Baubotanik is the encouragement of plants to inter-grow to a physiological unit and a mechanically strong junction by connecting them in a specific manner. The qualification of different fusion methods and the impact of the tree type onto the results of the intergrowth is being examined in current experiments. Therefore, exemplarily common forest and park trees with different anatomic features (e.g. Zerstreut- and Ringporer) and ecological behavior patterns (e.g. pioneer and climax species) were chosen.” (Ludwig, 2012)
Helix Pflanzen got involved in Baubotanik in 2008. Growing plants is our core business and we were asked to grow the vegetation modules for the first baubotanikal tower, which is a test and demonstration building. It is eight square meters wide and about nine meters high with three walkable levels. This is the first building ever with a vegetative structure using the plant addition method. We pregrew about one hundred Salix alba in temporary containers. Only the lowest plants are planted in the ground. The vertical steel structure is only temporary. As long as the plants are not fully inter- grown there is need for extra watering and fertilization of the Salix alba. But over the years this will be less and less necessary until finally the containers can be taken away as well as all vertical steel construction.
The latest baubotanikal building is the “Plane Tree Cube” in Nagold. Again, Helix Pflanzen pregrew the vegetation modules in our plant nursery. This time Platanus was used. A team of Landscapers did the actual implementation on site.
The Plane-Tree-Cube in Nagold is set to be the biggest baubotanikal building so far. It is the first that is specifically designed for an urban context. The construction is one of the highlights of this year´s regional horticultural show 2012, which is taking place in Nagold at the moment. After the show it will be part of a number of town houses. These houses are made out of stone and placed in a green garden. With the Tree Cube it is just the reverse, the building itself is the plant.
Visitors entering get the impression of the shady coolness of a tree-crown. It is both, a natural and an architecturally designed space.
Again, according to Ferdinand Ludwig, “there are all the sensuous qualities one knows from naturally grown trees and forests: like the leaves swooshing in the wind or their dancing shadows. However, by its geometrical design and the different levels and staircases its architectural character becomes evident. The building is a constructed tree, a regular cube that will change its shape over the years.
Furthermore these special and sensuous qualities make the environmental potentials of Baubotanik tangible: The air is cooled by the high evaporation power of the leaves, which thereby create a pleasant microclimate.” (Ludwig, 2012)
Helix Pflanzen GmbH, a medium- sized enterprise from Kornwestheim / Germany has a very unique focus on plants and also plant systems. We strongly believe that plants in an urban context will contribute in several aspects towards more resilient cities. This can be done vertically. Vertical green will help add more vegetation to our cities and municipalities for example by means of facades, walls, slopes and other vertical situations in the urban context where people can enjoy nature and its biodiversity ,as well as shading and cooling of vegetation.
The ecological welfare of vegetation is huge and there is a great need for more research. Especially the monetary value of the ecological welfare of urban vegetation is highly underestimated. The acceptance and willingness to invest money in plant systems that need care and maintenance will only happen when there is a definite and proven monetary value to urban communities.
Baubotanik offers the Research and Development department of Helix Pflanzen a wide field of possible innovations. With Baubotanik and the fusion of building material and trees we will add another module and product in our portfolio to help creating urban comfort zones in our cities, our municipalities.
Hans Müller Helix Pflanzen Germany www.Helix-Pflanzensysteme.de