Integrating Architecture with Landscape

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Left:Ken TTDI, Malaysia: An exemplery low energy commercial development that uses the Green Plot Ratio to evaluate the amount of the existing greenery on the site, which is then replenished on the façades in order to reduce ambient temperatures and mitigate solar heat gain. Middle: The Boutiq, Singapore: An urban residential scheme that celebrates recreational sky gardens providing social spaces that are more condusive to promoting interaction and relaxation. Right:Acqua Residences, Philippines: a high density waterfront residential scheme that seeks to employ horizontal, vertical, and diagonal greenery to create social spaces that help to reduce the ambient temperatures.

CaptionsLeft: Ken TTDI, Malaysia: An exemplary low energy commercial development that uses the Green Plot Ratio to evaluate the amount of the existing greenery on the site, which is then replenished on the façades in order to reduce ambient temperatures and mitigate solar heat gain.

Middle: The Boutiq, Singapore: An urban residential scheme that celebrates recreational sky gardens providing social spaces that are more condusive to promoting interaction and relaxation.

Right: Acqua Residences, Philippines: a high density waterfront residential scheme that seeks to employ horizontal, vertical, and diagonal greenery to create social spaces that help to reduce the ambient temperatures.

ASIAN economic growth has seen cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore flourish and urban densities increase. Singapore’s spatial constraint of being an island, coupled with a predicted population growth from five million people in 2011 to six million by 2020 (1), has seen a continued urban densification and a consequent increase in urban temperatures, as vegetated areas are surrendered to urban development (Wong et al, 2006).

Studies have also shown that the high rise, high thermal mass building typology and anthropogenic sources of heat (such as air-conditioning plants and artificial hard surfaces) further magnifies the impact on the urban climate, causing the urban heat island effect (UHI). This can be defined as the difference in temperature between the rural and urban areas (Arnfield, 1999; Wong, 2010,
Chua, 2005).

The negative impacts of replacing the natural landscape with human structures (thus exacerbating UHI) include increased health risks through higher ambient temperatures, aggravated atmospheric pollution, increased emissions of ozone precursors and increased energy consumption for cooling of five percent for every one degree of ambient temperature rise (Wong, 2010).

Greening the urban habitat plays a major role in reducing the effects of UHI in addition to enhancing space for the health and well-being of civil society, reducing building running costs and enhancing asset value. This includes planting and landscape that can enhance the physiological and psychological health and well-being within the high density built environment (Ulrich, 1981: 523–556; 1986: 29–44).

Various types of rooftop greenery, including shrubs, turf and clay soil of different thicknesses, can contribute to economic savings of between 1 and 15 percent in annual energy consumption and 17 to 79 percent in space cooling load (the rate at which heat must be removed from the space to maintain a constant space air temperature) of commercial properties in Singapore (Wong, 2003). Green roof structures and their water absorbent and evapotranspiratory properties can also assist in the reduction of ambient temperatures (Tan et al, 2009).

A RANGE OF DIFFERENT LANDSCAPE TECHNOLOGIES AND SPECIES PROVIDES AN OPPORTUNITY TO QUANTIFIABLY ASSIGN A VALUE BASED ON LEAF AREA INDEX (LAI).

With a rapidly densifying urban habitat to cater for a growing population, Singapore is faced with having to reduce urban temperatures and provide habitable alternative social spaces that can foster community. This is especially true as the existing vegetated open areas are, unless otherwise planned for retention and enhancement, potentially being depleted through urbanisation.

The challenge, therefore, lies in looking at alternative means to green the urban habitat that explore, in a more quantifiable way, diagonal and vertical planes in addition to the horizontal plane of the ground, podium or rooftop. This leads us to consider the green plot ratio.

Singapore’s cultural imperative of creating a garden city has seen the deployment of far-reaching legislative guidelines that promote the replenishment of greenery as well as the incorporation of sky courts and landscaped terraces in a bid to restore balance in an increasingly high-density environment (Tan, 2010). This has led to the formulation of more quantifiable measures of planting to ensure that the adverse climatic effects of high-density development can be mitigated through more balanced architectural and integrated landscape design.

The Valley, Malaysia: A landmark commercial office development that increases the existing green plot ratio by the incoporation of high Leaf Area Index shrubs that are used in the terrace areas.

The Singapore Government’s commitment to researching the effects of rooftop gardens, vertical and horizontal planting can be seen in what has been defined as the green plot ratio (GnPR). Planted surfaces are an effective way of counteracting the heat island effect and the absorption of heat in the building fabric and its subsequent re-radiation. The GnPR addresses this issue by assigning values to particular plants based on the surface area of greenery. This is achieved by adapting the leaf area index, a biological parameter that is used to monitor the ecological health of natural ecosystems and to mathematically model and predict metabolic processes. As such, it can be used to quantify planning metrics in biological terms (Ong, 2003).

For instance, a hypothetical site that has 12 trees (and therefore a particular GnPR value) may be developed and see the consequent removal of the said number. By assigning values to different types of planting, the ability to replenish the same “green value” of the 12 trees by alternative means (for instance, turf and shrubs across the vertical or diagonal surfaces) will ensure a balance of leaf area is retained on the site, and its correlating social, economic and environmental benefits.

Turf, palms, shrubs and trees are the major groups that have been assigned GnPR values based on the leaf area index. Turf has the lowest GnPR at 2.0, as the leaf area index of a blade of grass is less than that of the other categories. Despite palm trees being larger structures, their leaf area index is still less than a shrub and has a value of 2.5. Given their greater density of leaf coverage, shrubs have a value of 3.5, whilst trees have the highest leaf area index at 4.0. The ability to quantifiably ascertain the effectiveness of planting on the building through the creation of a green metric goes some way to integrating architecture with landscape as opposed to being considered in isolation.

Read the rest of this article in No.83 Issue 6/2011 of Asian Geographic magazine by subscribing here or check out all of our publications here.

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