Wonderwoods: a vertical forest in the centre of Utrecht

A vertical forest of one hectare only a two-minute walk away from the busiest train station of the Netherlands: Utrecht Centraal. In the coming years a new project will be realized in the new city area Beurskwartier, Wonderwoods: two green towers where living, working, culture and leisure will come together from the end of 2023 onwards. On June 15th gemeente Utrecht and Wonderwoods Development (consisting of VolkerWessels ondernemingen, G&S Vastgoed en KondorWessels Projecten) signed the issue agreement. With this the construction of the towers on the Croeselaan against the Kinepolis cinema can start after the summer. Wonderwoods will contribute to healthy urban living in Utrecht, with attention to nature and climate.

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Healthy living in the city, it cannot be done without nature

The population of Utrecht is expected to rise from 350,000 inhabitants in 2018 to 455,000 inhabitants in 2040. To be able to stay healthy in this increasingly busy city, bringing back nature to the city is essential. Wonderwoods contributes to this by integrating nature in design and construction. Not only because a green environment is a feast for the eye, but also because of the positive effects of it on our environment and health.

One hectare of forest: 360 trees and 10,000 plants

The low tower at the Kinepolis will bring green from inside out. The highest tower on the Croeselaan will contain a vertical forest with vegetation mainly in and on the outer wall of the building. The vegetation is based on the plant species of the National Park Utrechtse Heuvelrug and are fitting to the Dutch climate. The 360 trees and almost 10,000 plants – which is similar to two soccer fields – will absorb 5,400 kg CO2 and return 41,000 kg of oxygen in its place, which contributes to the improvement of the air quality of the city. Wonderwoods’ natural habitat will encourage around 30 different species of fauna – including birds, bees and butterflies – to return to live in the city.

Vegetation against heat stress

An underestimated effect of climate change is heat stress. According to the manager of the KNMI heat stress is ‘the most threatening of all climate extremes’ and can lead to physical symptoms in people and animals. Heat stress occurs more in the city than in the country side because of the high density of buildings, the materials used in the buildings and the lack of vegetation. Because of this, it can be 3 to 5 degrees warmer in the city than in rural areas. The greenery in and on the outer walls of Wonderwoods offers shadow, coolness and it absorbs the warmth of its environment. With this it combats heat stress.

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What does Wonderwoods do for nature?

Wonderwoods integrates nature’s qualities to ensure a better climate of life. To give something back to nature as well, there are some extraordinary aspects in the design. Therefore Wonderwoords meets the nZEB standards (Nearly zero-energy buildings) and has a positive effect on energy consumption and CO2 emission. All the wood that will be used is sustainable wood.

On Wonderwoods, all the roof gardens, flowerboxes and tree planters will have a water reservoir with storage capacity for rainwater, as a result of which the building has a fully self-supporting water supply. This way Wonderwoods does not make an appeal to the increasingly arid Dutch climate. In addition to this there will be permanent irrigation everywhere that will ensure that the plants and trees will get enough water. This will prevent anything catching fire, as it does in nature.

Green makes us happy

The greenery on Wonderwoods does not only have a positive impact on the environment, but also on our well-being. This is shown by numerous studies, among which one from the University of Essex. Participants of the study noticed that a positive effect on their health, mood and feeling of happiness after they had been in nature. A part of Wonderwoods is therefore openly accessible by inhabitants of Utrecht as well as visitors of the city. There will be room for restaurants, a gym, stores, a place for digital art and a Vertical Forest Hub: a knowledge center for sustainability and nature. The roof park is an escape from the daily bustle of life – visitors can enjoy the view, wander or exercise.

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Green living: where and when?

Leasing out land on a long lease marks the start of a new icon in Utrecht. Wonderwoods fits in with ‘Healthy Urban Living’ (‘Gezond Stedelijk Leven’), one of the long-range plans of the city. Ecological principles and sustainable solutions have been applied in the design and construction in detail. The tower of 105 meters on the Croeselaan is designed by Stefano Boeri Architetti. This architectural firm designed the praised Bosco Verticale (‘the vertical forest’) prior to this in Milan. MVSA Architects – known from the new station in Rotterdam – designed the tower of 73 meters on the Jaarbeursboulevard.

At the end of 2023 you can live in a green oasis in Utrecht. Wonderwoods will have 410 apartments for different target groups. The office spaces, parking garage, 252 rental accommodations and facilities have been acquired by a.s.r. real estate on behalf of the ASR Dutch Mobility Office Fund and the ASR Dutch Core Residential Fund. Both a.s.r. real estate funds are consulted by Van Gool Elberg Vastgoedspecialisten. Wonderwoods Development will be consulted by BNP Paribas Real Estate.