A spate of green skyscrapers have shot up in the last few years, as people learn that buildings account for more CO2 emissions than any other single source. At the same time, we’ve seen a rise in greenwashing by companies recognizing the market value of green and making false claims to fit the category. In an exemplary meeting of these two trends, we have just discovered a building in progress in Mumbai that calls itself the greenest of all the buildings in the Maximum City of 13 million people. If ever there were a literal interpretation of a deceptive green façade, this is it.
Renderings of the 27-story Antilla building depict a highrise that couldn’t be greener. It’s covered in foliage, with living walls enclosing all four sides, hanging gardens and green rooftop. Just a few days ago, the architects boasted about its environmental features – primarily that the walls of plants will increase green space and combat urban heat island effect. But look behind the green façade, and as far as we can tell, there’s nothing else sustainable about the materials or construction. Architecture firm Perkins + Will doesn’t include the project on their site, but this week mentioned no other green features besides the literal green.
The Antilla is being built for Reliance Industries Ltd, India’s largest private sector enterprise (with revenues exceeding $25 billion), and the Ambani family, who own the company. Reliance is a petrochemical corporation whose earnings come from exploring, producing, refining and marketing oil and gas. They are the world’s largest producer of polyester fiber, and a runner-up for several others.
The building will stand on Mumbai’s Altamount Road, where real estate costs as much as $1800/square foot. Although Mumbai is the densest city in the world, with almost 30,000 people per square kilometer, this 500+ foot tall building will only be 27 floors where normally a building of this height would be 60, so that each floor can have exceptionally high ceilings, and 35,000 square feet of the entire building area will be the residential quarters of the Ambani’s.
Sustainability is most commonly defined as The ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Unless this goal is applied to everyone, it’s impossible for us to have a sustainable global society. Sustainability is about humanity as much as it is about greenery. Living walls are lovely, but they’re not a free ticket to environmental integrity.