Making skyrise greenery affordable

Skyrise greenery is gaining increasing popularity among building owners, but many are still holding back due to high retrofitting and maintenance costs.

But a new collaboration is underway to study how green walls in Singapore can be made more sustainable and affordable.

What used to be an empty concrete space is now the heart of Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School – a rooftop garden thriving with biodiversity and undeniably a favourite learning spot with its students.

The green project cost S$70,000, and half of it was paid by the National Parks Board (NParks) under the Skyrise Greenery Incentive Scheme (SGIS).

And NParks said various organisations like hospitals, shopping malls, and corporate offices, have come onboard since March.

“Many of the building owners… have recommended to other organisations to come onboard and the take-up rate is increasing. The benefits that they have enjoyed include the lowering of the ambient temperature; it reduces the noise between buildings,” said Ng Cheow Kheng, deputy director of Horticulture & Community Gardening, NParks.

The scheme encourages the installation of green roofs or green walls on existing buildings. But only 11 out of the 39 beneficiaries have used the incentives for vertical greenery.

Building owners said high installation and maintenance costs are the main detractors.

The installation of a green wall typically costs between S$1,000 and S$1,500 per square metre – that’s 10 times the amount needed to install a rooftop garden.

Some buildings are also not able to withstand the heavy weight of the gardens, and soil crumbling could leave the surrounding areas dirty.

So the search is on for a more efficient alternative.

The School of Design and Environment at the NUS is collaborating with Japan’s Suntory Midorie to research and develop vertical greening systems in Singapore.

The environment greening business has created a urethane-based, spongy gardening material called Pafcal that serves as a substitute for soil.

“It’s soilless; it has very high water-retention capabilities, and so it’s essentially clean. But at the same time, being in a new environment and tropical climate, how does it work here, what kind of plants will best work with this medium – I think these are things that we need to look into,” said Professor Henh Chye Kiang, Dean of School of Design and Environment, NUS.

It is hoped that this technology would be commercialised in Singapore, and attract more building owners to travel the green route.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 6 Nov 2011

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