Intensive Green Roof GreenRoof Asia

Intensive Green Roof GreenRoof Asia

Earlier this year a company based in Chongqing, China, transformed their building’s rooftop into a large agricultural space. Meixin Group, a manufacturer of doors, wanted to provide their employees with a green space that would lead to healthier lifestyles and, ultimately, increase worker productivity. Dubbed the ‘Happy Farm’, it covers an area of around 12,000m/sq and will be opening up to the public in June or July of this year ( February, 2014).

At GreenRoof Asia we are always excited to see these types of projects coming to fruition as they are big steps in the right direction. It is especially notable that the company itself initiated the project rather than it being driven by regulatory compliance. Meixin Group have taken a bold risk and ventured way beyond what was required.

The rooftop is currently being used by their employees as both an active and passive space. Employees are allocated an area to grow their crops, similar to allotments. The waterproofed roof has rice paddies, as well as rows of vegetables. It is an impressive initiative for the benefit of Meixin Group employees but also the local environment and the wider community.

GreenRoof Asia has also recently completed an roof ‘edible garden’ project for a school in Sai Kung and we are currently preparing the detailed designs for another edible roof garden which includes a rice terrace system. Requests now come into us all the time for edible rooftop gardens and we are now also looking at designs for a hotel in Kowloon and private residences in Tai Tam, Discovery Bay and the Peak. The thing about these kinds of projects is that they do not just produce food, but they encourage community engagement with their environment, provide jobs and create awareness.

There is growing concern, especially in China, what a fast growing urban population and decreasing rural population will mean for food security in the future. China uses about 9% of the world’s arable land to support around 21% of the world’s population, so food security is always of concern. Initiatives like Meixin Group’s ‘Happy Farm’ will hopefully represent a growing interest in urban farming and roof greening in Greater China.

The environmental and economic benefits of green roofs and walls are often discussed and scientists are increasingly trying to quantify these benefits. However, there are numerous social and community benefits as well.

While green roofs and walls help save water and energy, reduce storm water flooding and improve air quality, they also promote human health and generate jobs, which supports community resiliency.

The green roof and wall industry has seen enormous growth over the last years and has helped create local jobs. These jobs are not limited to the design and building of green roofs and walls, but continue into on-going maintenance. While the ‘living architecture’ is sourced locally or regionally, the installment and maintenance supports local labour at a variety of levels.

Besides job creation, they generate additional community revitalisation benefits by providing opportunities for active and passive spaces for recreation, education, community development and cohesion. Accessible green roofs provide people with natural spaces in underutilised surfaces of the city to engage in activities such as gardening. Especially in Hong Kong, where quality outdoor open access areas are lacking, green roofs can help remedy various social issues associated with lack of open space.

Further local resiliency is promoted through the opportunities it presents in food production. In a globalised world where we have a heavy depend on imports, green roofs and walls can help produce food locally, heightening local resiliency as well.

Intensive Green Roof GreenRoof Asia

We have spoken before about the benefits of green living architecture for human health, but to reiterate, the presence of greenery can promote a sense of health and well-being and some studies are actually showing a direct link between lowered blood pressure, lower stress levels and higher productivity in the presence of simply a ‘green’ view. What is more, it encourages a more active lifestyle, fostering further revitalisation of the community.

Hong Kong may be getting its very own vertical farming buildings in Tai Po. Is this the city’s first step towards food security?

The last decade has brought a lot more urban farming initiatives, all over the world. These have come in the form of farming on urban allotments, growing herbs on balconies, keeping bees for honey, farming on rooftops, hydroponics, aquaponics… and so on. We all know fresher food is better for us but food grown on our doorstep also means a reduction in food miles, an increase in food safety and, crucially, connects and educates people and children about their food.

There are currently conceptual plans for a vertical farming project in Tai Po. Envisioned by Spanish architect Javier Ponce, the building with numerous levels for growing food could be a step towards food sovereignty for Hong Kong. “Since Hong Kong has a predominant verticality and a lack of buildable space, it could be interesting to reinterpret this verticality and propose this new type of vertical farming on the city’s outskirts ” (Spanish Architect, Javier Ponce in SCMP, 26 th July, 2013). It will be interesting to see if these planning applications are accepted and the development actually becomes reality and then to see what it will mean for food dependability in Hong Kong.

There has already been a growing interest in urban agriculture projects in Hong Kong. There are rentable allotments located in various places in the New Territories, strawberry picking in Tai Tong organic park. and start-up businesses aiming to make people increasingly aware and involved with growing your own food. These initiatives for ‘city farming’ are, inevitably, small projects that take advantage of whatever space is available.  However, these limitations have shown that with innovation there is still a lot that can be produced.

For instance, green roofs can also play an important role in urban farming. GreenRoof Asia has been involved with a few urban farming projects. For example, our green roof on the Canadian International School of Hong Kong will have a rice terrace on it and the terrace itself will be irrigated using recycled rain water. It’s a small step but is a great one in the right direction. There are many other opportunities for growing food on rooftops, be they small or big.

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