Toronto, Canada, is a city that should be commended for giving its urban canopy the attention it deserves. It’s already home to 10 million urban trees, covering around 26% of the city. But why stop there? Mayor, John Tory, wants to grow that to 40%.

A new 27-storey residential building, designed by local architecture firm, Brisbin Brook Beynon (BBB), will make a big contribution to this goal – albeit in an unconventional way. The apartment building will be covered with around 450 trees growing on its balconies and rooves – cleaning up the surrounding air and providing a fertile environment for pollinators and humans alike.

This vertical forest takes inspiration from the Bosco Verticale residential towers built in Milan in 2014 and housing up to 11,000 plants on its sides. Since then, we’ve seen other similar buildings in cities like Nanjing and Taiwan leveraging vertical and horizontal roof space to create much-needed urban greenery.

Brian Brisbin, Principal at BBB, said bringing the vertical forest concept to Toronto aligned perfectly with the mayor’s goal of increasing tree coverage. In fact, the technology that enabled the Bosco Verticale building to come to life actually originated in Canada and North America. Brisbin said, “We have a lot of depth of specialty in this area in Toronto, with horticultural and agricultural universities and research facilities and we’ve brought a lot of this together to take a very science-based approach to developing this project.”

A specialized system will monitor and irrigate all 450 trees, which will be planted in their own portable woven stainless steel planters. The integrated system will connect with all of the planters to track key metrics such as the amount of water, nutrient density and external conditions like wind strength.

While covering buildings in trees will not be enough to achieve Toronto’s urban canopy goals alone, projects like this certainly deliver clear benefits like cleaner air and more space for birds and pollinator species to work their magic.