A soil-less material developed by a Japanese firm offers possibilities in the large-scale usage of vertical and roof gardens for climate control in Singapore’s urbanscape.
Contributed By Yong Yung Shin
On Oct. 25, the National University of Singapore’s School of Design and Environment and Suntory Holdings Limited signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on the research and development of technologies in the area of vertical greening systems. This team-up may take Singapore’s efforts toward eco-conscious living to a whole new level.
Originally an alcoholic beverage and food company, Suntory launched its environment greening business under the brand Midorie in March 2008 with the development of Pafcal, a new urethane-based lightweight gardening material that serves as a soil substitute for growing plants. Pafcal addresses one of the major limitations in existing rooftop and green wall greenery systems: because of the weight of these gardens, older buildings have not been suitable for roof gardens.
The MOU was signed by Professor Heng Chye Kiang, dean of the SDE and Suntory’s managing executive officer, Dr. Hideo Tsujimura. The signing ceremony was witnessed by leading industry stakeholders, professionals and government officials.
“As the School of Design and Environment, we have always been leveraging on design and technology to address the environmental challenges confronting our planet: global warming, rampant urbanization and the massive loss of forests and fields. This collaborative effort between NUS and Suntory demonstrates our commitment to exploring innovative and viable solutions in the area of vertical greening systems. [This paves] the way for a brighter and greener world for future generations,” said Prof. Heng.
Successfully harnessed, vertical gardens can help alleviate the “heat island phenomenon” and effectively insulate buildings while beautifying urban landscapes. “Heat island phenomenon” is the significantly warmer temperature faced by an urban area as compared to its surrounding rural areas, mainly caused by the modification of land surface using materials that retain heat and waste heat generated by energy usage.
Additionally, as a soil-less medium for plants, Pafcal prevents the problem of soil crumbling and scattering, leaving surrounding areas dirty. Maintenance, a key factor in the efficiency of vertical and rooftop gardens, is also lower using Suntory’s Midorie no Yane (Japanese for “green roof”) rooftop greenery system and the Hana no Kabe (“flower wall”) green wall system, which are already in use in Japan.
The systems have also been commercially introduced to other regions in Asia including Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The collaboration between NUS and Suntory will involve the exchange of scientific, academic and technical information, and the organization and participation in academic and scientific seminars and conferences. Already, a green wall system has been set up in the Greenery Technology Laboratory of the Department of Building at NUS, through which a series of experiments and research will be conducted to determine its thermal performance, the water absorption and retention of Pafcal, the suitable choice of plants as well as the quality of water after passing the green wall, in the context of Singapore’s tropical climate. It will also involve the identification of opportunities for the commercialization of technology in the area of vertical greening systems.