What the heck is a “supertree”? Here’s a hint: it’s not a real tree! Next week, Singapore will be unveiling a new section in its Gardens by the Bay – the Bay South Garden. Bay South Garden is now home to 18 “supertrees,” some of which are over 100 feet tall. Check it out.
These structures are composed of concrete, steel, and a variety of exotic plants. The “trees” are meant to be both aesthetically impressive and environmentally beneficial. Several sustainable features have been built into the canopies. Eleven of the “trees” are equipped with photovoltaic panels to collect solar energy that will light up the trees at night. Some are also equipped with air exhaust receptacles so that they can be integrated with the system regulating air and temperature within the conservatory housing the gardens. On top of that, the trunks of the “trees” have been turned into vertical gardens that host plants from around the world.
I’ll admit it: this is a pretty innovative idea. These “supertrees” offer many of the benefits that actual trees do: shade, temperature regulation, and air purification to some extent. Although, I do wonder how sustainable they can be deemed since a substantial amount of materials and energy were surely required to create these “trees,” not to mention any additional electricity required to power the trees if the solar cells do not produce enough energy. I am thinking real trees are probably less expensive and better serve the community (e.g. cleaning the air, removing carbon, producing oxygen), plus you don’t need an engineer to take care of them. But then again, real trees don’t offer you a nightly light and sound show, so you may think it’s a toss up.