Cork city’s five urban moss walls, known as ‘robot trees’, on Patrick’s Street and the Grand Parade have been labelled a “colossal” waste of energy and water by one of the city’s leading sustainability campaigners.
Urban regeneration expert with Anois, Jude Sherry, said the artificial trees cost up to €380,000 and are “extremely environmentally damaging.” Ms Sherry co-founded global design agency Anois with anti-dereliction campaigner, Frank O’Connor, as a consultancy “concerned with sustainability, equality and social justice.”
Speaking to The Echo, Ms Sherry said the five ‘trees’ use the equivalent of up to a year’s worth of a household’s electricity. “Their water use is colossal. It’s not just on an operational level that they are environmentally damaging. They are obviously made from dead trees as well,” she added.
“Across the full-life cycle of the products, there would be a carbon footprint associated with all the materials that have gone into them, their transportation and manufacturing phases.”
With the heavy use of electronics contained within them, Ms Sherry said the ‘trees’ have a “massive impact across the supply chain, especially to do with the raw material extraction”.
Funding for the project came during Covid. The one positive to come from the robot trees is that they show the need for seating in the city. You always see people sitting at them,” Ms Sherry said.
Meanwhile, Ms Sherry criticised the City Council’s overall redevelopment of Bishop Lucey Park, located off the Grand Parade. Recently, seven to eight mature trees were cut down in the park by the council. Ms Sherry said some public land in the park has been allocated to a private organisation, while some of the green space is being paved over.
“Cork city is currently over-paved,” she said. “It’s a marsh land, and the rain water needs to go into the soil. There needs to be a lot more spaces for water to get back into the ground instead of running off the concrete in the pavements. Prevention is better than cure,” she added.
A Cork City Council spokesperson said the council “is presently analysing the data pertaining to the operation of the Moss Walls and will present the same to Council once it is complete.” On Bishop Lucey Park, the spokesperson said: “We removed seven trees in the park, and one in the graveyard of Christchurch, as part of the works. As part of the public realm work that will be undertaken in the park, seven semi-mature trees will be planted in the new park.”