Growing demands for the office and housing space as urbanization rate reaches a higher level are urging architects, developers, and builders to think of something that is spatially efficient. Tall buildings, if not skyscrapers, serve to be inhabited by many businesses and residents to live in – and as more competitions in the built environment kick in, urban trends arise. Many has started to think, what if one could create a tall building that also serves the visual feast of a lush, green oasis in the midst of a concrete jungle?
With The continued growth of sustainable design and construction, Professor Wong Nyuk Hien, Deputy the Head (Academic) Department of Building at the National University of Singapore (NUS) investigates that the vertical greenery will play an increasing role, bringing improved the aesthetics and energy use to building especially in Asia region.
Professor Wong shares his thoughts exclusively with AsiaGreenBuildings on vertical greenery for sustainable urban city, the main challenges it poses to the green building industry in Asia and how his department at the NUS plays role towards a sustainable future.
How does a vertical greenery fit into the process of the sustainable urban city ?
We started by greening the rooftops. That’s why we have rooftop gardens; intensive rooftop gardens and extensive rooftop gardens.
Rooftop gardens are becoming a very common feature in buildings, especially in new buildings, but we also realize that as buildings are getting taller, the area that you can green is very limited in terms of the roof, and also now we have a challenge in terms of the same space now is being occupied by, only the green roof, but also solar panels and so on, so everyone is trying to fight for that roof space
That’s why we started to explore what the possible ways are to have further greening to integrate with the buildings. That’s why this idea of greening it on the façade started to come to picture because the opportunity that we can green up the façade is tremendous in terms of the areas.
Also in our research, we came to find very good benefits in terms of having these green walls of vertical greening. It serves to cut down the heat tremendously once you have a green wall, but of course you have to do it in a very restrictive way, which I think is for another question. It can literally cut the heat completely away from entering into the building through the façade and at the same time it also has the benefit of lowering the ambient temperature, improve the aesthetic, give people a pleasant feeling with the present of greenery and so on.
What are the main challenges the green building industry in Asia has in implementing the green roofs and every vertical greenery aspect?
In terms of the challenges, which are many, in the case of the green roofs, I would say it becomes really mature in terms of technology. And the good thing about green roofs is the cost also goes down quite drastically.
But when you talk about the vertical greenery, there has been a lot of challenges, I’ve to acknowledge that in terms of research, in terms of technology available in the market, there still needs to be a little bit of improvement in terms of lowering the cost. The grand cost of green wall is still very high.
We also see a lot of failure of green walls due to unreliable irrigation systems. The other problem is providing proper access for maintenance. If these things are not properly considered during the design stage, you will not have proper maintenance and this could be problematic. So that has been the many issues we’re facing in terms of high cost, high operating and maintenance cost as well.
How can the Department of Building at NUS plan for a further sustainable future ?
In our department, we’ve been very actively involved in various aspects on this sustainable future. We’ve been quite actively engaged with various government agencies to help push this sustainable future for Singapore.
So yes, the department of buildings has actually placed quite a critical role in terms of supporting the government agency to help push the sustainable future. We also quite involve with the industry as well. Many of us also engage by the industry to help in the project, to implement, to test out the new idea, new technology, and so on.
How do the NUS students become involved in green building practices at a personal / institutional level?
We try to reflect, we try to upgrade, we try to improve our curriculum so that students are very aware of all this development in the industry and we prepare them for entry to the industry. In fact, in year one we already have an introductory module called ‘Green Building Technology process in a developing city. We expose them to different green building technologies and green development.
So its just to exposed them, so they are quite well aware of this development. And ofcourse the progressively as they move on to the seniors years, they’re more advanced, enhanced the knowledge, execute in this area. So we constantly change our curriculum to reflect all this new technology and all module.
This exclusive interview is facilitated under a Media Partnership with the Green Urban Scape Asia 2015, at which Professor Wong Nyuk Hien is one of the speakers.
About Department of Building School of Design & Environment
The Department of Building was established on 1 June 2000, when the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Real Estate was restructured as the School of Design and Environment, and the then School of Building and Real Estate became two departments – Department of Building and Department of Real Estate.
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