Going Beyond Green Roofs and Green Walls
As skyrise greenery gains importance in Singapore, there is a need to creatively address and explore the boundaries of this form of greening. From harnessing the education aspect of skyrise greenery by creating educational learning gardens, to supporting the growth of native plants in green walls and roofs, to the exploring of innovative aesthetic methods of designing and painting Singapore’s aerial canvas. All these aspects help to redefine the boundaries of skyrise greenery.
Drawing on a database of skyrise greenery projects in Singapore, NParks seeks to go beyond conventional green roofs and walls to present and explore new possibilities for skyrise greenery within Singapore’s evolving landscape. Below are some of the current and new developments of skyrise greenery.
Growing Edibles on Rooftops: Rooftop Farm at Telok Kurau Primary School
In a bid to create more learning opportunities for students, Telok Kurau Primary School (TKPS) successfully converted an unused rooftop space above the assembly hall into a 110sqm rooftop farm that is now intensively used as part of the school’s Character and Citizenship Education Values-in-Action (VIA) programme. Since its inception in 2014, students from the Primary 4 classes take turns to care for the farm each academic term, right from the planting of seeds to the harvesting and distribution of produce.
Some of the harvested produce are packed and donated to community centres for distribution to elderly homes, while others are sold to raise funds for students from low income backgrounds. Through this process, students are exposed not only to the farming process but also develop important soft skills such as teamwork and basic entrepreneurship.
Another positive outcome of the rooftop farm is the active involvement of parent volunteers. Parent volunteers assist with the harvesting and packaging of the produce, which in turn improves relationships within the student, staff, and parent community. In addition, parents also have a better understanding of the school’s teaching pedagogies to incorporate character development in the learning curriculum.
Students and staff at TKPS have proven that with dedication and direction, it is possible to upkeep an edibles type rooftop garden in an unconventional setting, which is in a primary school. Apart from inculcating beneficial skill sets outside the classroom setting, the rooftop farming programme also helps students nurture compassion and learn the importance of giving back to society.
Telok Kurau Primary School’s rooftop farm is co-funded under NParks’ Skyrise Greenery Incentive Scheme (SGIS). Under SGIS, eligible projects can be funded up 50% of their skyrise greenery installations, capped at $200 per square metre for rooftop greenery and $500 per square metre for vertical greenery. Visit https://www.nparks.gov.sg/skyrisegreenery/incentive-scheme to find out more.
Photo credits: Ms Goh Ya Li
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Do-it-Yourself Green Wall by Northbrooks Secondary School
You could call it the Great Green Wall of Northbrooks Secondary School (NBSS)!
Spanning 32m long, about 2m tall and comprising more than 15 species of plants, this vertical garden built on the façade of the Design & Technology block is a labour of love by Secondary 4 student volunteers and members from the school’s Environmental Art Club. The school’s in-house gardener, Mr Poon Soon Hong, initiated the idea for this do-it-yourself (DIY) project in 2015.
He said he wanted to create a low-cost and sustainable alternative to two other green walls that are already in the school’s foyer and parade square. Those walls, designed and installed by external vendors, were to increase greenery in the school and to beautify otherwise empty concrete walls. The school was also aware that green walls can help reduce building temperature, making the classrooms and office space cooler for all.
Mr Poon said he was inspired to do the same, but instead of hiring a professional contractor, he tapped the creativity of students, and together they built this third wall up.
Reducing cost and resource wastage
So what makes this DIY green wall different? It was constructed using basic recyclable materials and includes minimal structural components to reduce cost and resource wastage. For example, students used plastic bottles collected from the school canteen as planters while a garden hose with holes drilled into it at intervals, make up a simple yet effective drip irrigation system.
Applying simple engineering principles, the plastic bottles are connected to each other through a hole measured and cut out of the bottom of each of the bottles. This allows water to flow from the top planter to the lower ones, ensuring water efficiency. In addition, this method eliminates the need for any adhesive to connect the plastic bottles together, making it convenient to expand the green wall – you can just add planter bottles either to the top or bottom rows!
The plants used for the green wall are propagated from the school’s community garden. Plants with attractive flowers or variegated foliage were chosen to give the wall more colour. Species include Ixora (Ixora spp.), Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-chinensis.), White Butterfly Plant (Syngonium podophullum), Zigzag Plant (Pedilanthus tithymaloides), Singapore Daisy (Spagneticola trilobata), Blood Flower (Asclepias curassavica), and Lantana (Lantana camara).
Benefits of going green
Students have benefited greatly from the set up of this DIY green wall. Besides adding greenery to an otherwise bare wall and being pleasant to look at, the green wall is also a good way to introduce students to ecology and enhance biodiversity around the school
As most of the plant species chosen are butterfly- and bird-attracting, students have observed wildlife like the Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) butterfly as well as sunbirds and cuckoos in the garden. Some birds have even built nests in the garden!
Students like to chit chat or hang out in the garden, and some also help out almost daily in gardening and general maintenance of the greenery during recess or after school hours. The school hopes that this is a platform for students to bond over a common interest and can spark their interest in gardening and horticulture.
This project is a good example of what can be achieved thanks to the school’s strong focus on environmental education coupled with the hard work of staff and students. And the best part is that students, present and future, will have a beautiful green space conducive for learning and for play.
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Creating Educational Gardens
Aside from conventional cooling and aesthetic purposes of green roofs, they can also provide educational spaces and interactional places for various age groups.
One such aspect is community gardening. Community gardening has been gaining popularity in Singapore, even among various age groups in Singapore. This form of gardening seeks to enable individuals in a community to be responsible for organizing, planting and maintaining their gardens. With limited land space in Singapore for use projects, it is no wonder that this trend has found its way to skyrise greenery.
Community In Bloom (CIB) is a program that was launched in 2005 and aims to foster a gardening culture among people in Singapore. Working with CIB, this form of gardening is increasingly found on rooftops. For example, at Kuo Chuan Presbytherian Secondary School the rooftop is accessible to students for their planting projects.
One form of community gardening is that of rooftop farming. Crops such as vegetables and herbs can be grown on rooftop spaces. This proves an effective usage of space scarce Singapore. Such spaces allow people to re-connect with their kampong roots and also aid the needy by generating revenue for meal vouchers from the sale of produce. For example, Bedok View Secondary School also has a rooftop garden whereby students are involved in harvesting the vegetables that are grown on their rooftop ‘farm’. Crops grown include chye sime, kangkong and peanuts. Revenue generated from the sales of the produce will be used for meal vouchers.
Aside from community gardening, rooftop gardens can also be an educational learning experience for youths. Educational signboards could be placed next to the plant species planted on the roof gardens/ green walls to inform youths of the plant species and its uses. This helps to increase the environmental awareness of students/staff and creates a more environmentally conscious community.
For more information regarding CIB, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cultivating Native Plants
Green walls and roof gardens are great places to showcase native plants. We should not only extend our ecological corridor at the street level but also above ground. Green walls and green roofs can provide additional surfaces in which native plants can be grown.
For example, the green wall at 6 Battery Road integrated native species such as Asplenium nidus, Davailia denticulata and Ficus deltoidea.
Here are some of the native plants that can be grown on rooftops and green walls.
More information on native plants can be found at Flora & Fauna web. Alternatively, please feel free to contact us for advice regarding the selection of plants for your skyrise greenery project at email@example.com.
From left: Aeschynanthus parvifolius (Lipstick Plant), Cyanotis cristata (Cyanotis), Portulaca Pilosa (Pigweed), Tristellateia australasiae (Australian Gold Vine).
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Aesthetics of Skyrise Greenery
Green walls and roofs afford various surfaces in which artistic impressions can be presented. Currently there are many creative designs that add a splash of creativity to our skyline from an aerial view. Using a variety of different coloured plants, monotonous rooftops and building surfaces can be transformed into living works of art.
The usage of different coloured plants to create thematic spaces is one method of creating unique designs:
The indoor vertical greenery at 6 Battery Road – also known as the ‘Rainforest Rhapshody’. It uses a diversified plant selection to form naturalistic contours, mimicking epiphytic plant growth pattern on tree branches in rainforests.
The industrial lightweight roofs of Universal Studios Singapore @ Resorts World Sentosa have been transformed into ‘naturalized meadows’ using various coloured plants to create ‘natural’ swathes with informal patterns.
The use of softscape to complement the hardscape present on rooftop gardens.
Different coloured plants can also be planted to form words.
The Centrepoint used plants to form the name of its building on its rooftop garden. This is visible from the rooftop garden of Orchard Central situated next to the Centrepoint.
Green walls and roofs can also be utilised as a backdrop for artworks.
The green wall at Orchard Central (above left & right) provides a living backdrop for the Kusama Artwork located right in front of it.
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