Unrealistic renderings of fantastical concept architecture can really test our ability to suspend disbelief, with design features like cantilevered platforms somehow supporting the weight of enormous trees above them. Indeed, many concepts for tall buildings featuring vertical greenery are little more than wishful thinking, failing to consider the engineering challenges associated with keeping the plants alive. But in between the projects that will clearly never be built and those that might just barely squeak into existence (like Stefano Boeri’s Tower of the Cedars) are lush vegetated structures that take a slightly more practical approach.

Among these exceptions is the GREENOX Residence by Mental Design Works. Set among Istanbul’s tangle of concrete, Turkey’s “first vertical forest” proves that the ultimate results of an ambitious architectural project can be just as beautiful and exciting as the initial illustrations. An astonishing 900 trees cover the entire facade of the 16-story high rise, peeking out of staggered balconies that create a dynamic zig-zagging pattern as you gaze up at them from the sidewalk. The developers describe the GREENOX project as “lungs” for Istanbul, perpetually oxygenating the city and increasing its biodiversity.

With a name fittingly derived from the words “green” and “oxygen,” it’s not so surprising that this 170-unit residential tower is every bit as green on the inside as it is on the surface. The building incorporates high-efficiency boilers for space heating and hot water, low-flow faucets, solar panels, built-in graywater treatment, and rainwater collection systems — not to mention a material palette that helps it save 35 percent more energy, 42 percent more water, and 41 percent more embodied energy than a similarly sized conventional apartment building.

All of these features helped GREENOX earn the World Bank Group’s EDGE certification, which recognizes “Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies.” EDGE actively participates in the funding and planning of sustainable architectural projects, helping them find systems and solutions that work best for different climates and bringing international cachet to the table without sacrificing local context. Thus far, EDGE projects have saved a collective 246,627 MWh of energy and 6,611,561 cubic meters of water per year.

“The unique visual appeal of GREENOX draws customers interested in living a sustainable lifestyle,” EDGE explains. “GREENOX became a reality when two major real estate developers, Aycan Real Estate and Feres Gayrimenkul, combined to form Aycan-Feres Joint Venture. GREENOX is the first project the new partnership has completed together.”

“The unique residential building is located in the heart of the European side of Istanbul in close proximity to business, shopping, and entertainment. GREENOX contains 170 units consisting of one and two-bedroom apartments. Residents have access to outdoor spaces, a rooftop swimming pool, and entertainment facilities. With many terraces to enjoy the outdoors, residents will be able to enjoy the natural appeal of GREENOX.”

Part of a global trend toward sustainable architecture, the GREENOX Residence is also one of many new buildings being constructed in the city of Istanbul to prepare for an “inevitable” major earthquake. As older buildings are demolished and new, seismically safer buildings are erected in their place, projects like GREENOX could serve as models for a new wave of visually-captivating, resource-efficient architecture.