Green Walls – taking us back to nature

Since the dawn of civilization, humankind has maintained an unspoken attachment to nature as it is from nature that our ancestors derived their essentials to survive- food, water and shelter. It was only during recent centuries that rapid population growth and urbanization forced a chasm between us and natural elements such as the forests and rivers.

Despite all our progress in technology, there remains an innate biological connection which we cannot ignore- this proven concept is called Biophilia (Something we will expand on in future posts). To maintain this closeness to nature, many have adopted building elements and designs that incorporates some form of biophilia or connection to nature- from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the lawn/gardens we have these days in front/behind landed houses. Such is the importance of this connection between nature and humans that when buildings started going skyward and concrete jungles outgrow and bulldoze through actual jungles, the demand for more green in our urbanscape increased manyfold.

One of the many completed green wall projects using our GMS system in the Jewel, Singapore.

One of the many ways to merge the hard concrete & steel with softer greenery while utilizing the limited space in our cities is to incorporate green facades. This is where green walls come into the picture. While green walls are now appearing left, right and center, the idea of having this vertical green element has been around since the early 20th century. As pointed out by this article we are referencing from the Landscape Architects Network website,

The simplest way is to picture it as a cliff: the synthetic medium is the interface to which the cliff growing plant species can hang onto.

And this is the exact philosophy behind the creation of the GaiaWall– a breakthrough soil-free vertical green system that mimics nature in providing a cliff on which epiphytes and selected plant species can grow onto the synthetic growing medium. After the initial growing phase, these plants will be able to merge with the media itself (about 50mm thick) to form a more organic and robust ecosystem.

Without using the usual potted system, the Gaiawall advocates a way for plants to thrive without soil.

Basically, what scientists are saying is that biophilic design, including green walls, can reduce stress, improve cognitive function and creativity, improve our well-being and expedite healing. Besides that, studies by the Tokyo Institute of Technology showed that green walls are good thermal insulators and they have been proven to lower energy loss in buildings (from mechanical cooling). They also act as a sponge in absorbing dust & heavy metal particulates from the air. In many cases, noise abatement properties of green walls allow inhabitants to cut out most of the noise from traffic. However, the foremost role living walls play in the modern urban landscape is the creation of new green spaces in our land-scarce cities.

With the rapid development of a diverse range of living green systems for building facades, it is important to weight the pros and cons of each before adopting them as none of them are designed as a “one-size-fits-all”. For those who live in Malaysia, we at Belalang Inovasi are ever-ready to assist you in that regard. In the process of making our cities greener and taking us back to nature, it is also key to bear in mind that green walls are only part of a wider strategy and we should always keep our minds open to innovation and ideas that will continue to improve our daily lives.

Green Roof and Green Wall Maintenance During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Even if you’ve been living under a rock, chances are, you may have heard about the on-going global COVID-19 pandemic. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, lockdowns in all forms and names were imposed by governments all over the world. Be it MCO (Movement Control Order) in Malaysia, Circuit Breaker (CB) in our neighbour Singapore, or simply “Lockdown” in many other countries, they share similarities ranging from border shutdowns to closing of economic sectors deemed non-essential.

Fast forward 2 months, as most economic sectors are beginning to reopen in thie CMCO(Conditional Movement Control Order) period, team Belalang too refused to remain idle. Upon obtaining the letter of approval (conditional) from Ministry of International Trade and Industries (MITI) in early May, we have resumed the maintenance of green roof and walls with a few many new precautions and measures in place to adapt to the New Normal. Among these precautions are:

  1. COVID-19 Screening
Belalang worker getting screened by health workers

As required by the authorities, all construction-related non-Malaysian workers are required to undergo testing.

  1. Restriction of movements
    As practiced during the MCO, workers are only allowed to exit their accommodation for essential travel (grocery shopping, medical emergencies and to travel to work). No visitors from other dormitories/accommodations are allowed.
  1. Sanitizer and Mask
    Sanitizers and masks are provided by us to all our staff and workers to protect them as well as our clients.
  1. Briefings and Reminders
    Workers are reminded via weekly briefings and constant reminders to wash their hands frequently, maintain physical distancing when out, and report to us if they have any COVID-19 symptoms.
  1. Provide Transportation
    Instead of asking workers to rely on public transportation or carpool with others, we have ensured that our workers are provided their own transport to and back from job sites.

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Although team Belalang has started operations, we do not take the risks of infection lightly. We’ll strive to keep your green roof and green walls in tip-top shape while taking the necessary steps to keep everyone involved safe.

Here’s a belated Selamat Hari Raya, Selamat Menyambut Pesta Kaamatan and Happy Gawai to our friends and partners. Stay safe and healthy all!

GaiaMat Green Roof bloom in PJ, taken during maintenance in May 2020.

JARO Green Roof, Johor Bahru

Amid the global pandemic, it’s easy for us to put plans on the backburner while personal and business projects are being put on hold temporarily. The uncertainty is proving to be a testing period for many, including us at Belalang. Some say that in every crisis, there is an opportunity; and the temporary slow-down is a prime opportunity for us to reflect and improve.

We’d like to revisit December 2019, when team Belalang implemented an extensive green roof with the GaiaMat green roof system onto an existing metal deck for JARO. Working with Think City, the idea was to green up the roofs to provide cooler temperatures and create a conducive environment for the staff (especially when they look out the window to see lush greenery instead of cold hard metal). Working with the renovation engineer, it was important to check if the roof will be able to cater for the extra load. Fortunately for us, the fact that the system is so lightweight allowed for us to obtain the consultant’s approval to proceed with installation.

Before installation
View from inside the office before green roof installation

Within 2 days, we managed to install the necessary layers, as well as irrigation pump and driplines for the plants. Thanks to the cooperation from the building management, there were no hiccups in temporary storage of materials – creation of handicrafts carried on as usual while we were busy greening up their roofs.

FYI, JARO is an organization that provides training and a workplace for OKU’s around Johor Bahru area specializing in custom-made handicrafts and binding services. It is a rehabilitation center and workshop for the physically, intellectually and visually challenged. For more info, and to support this charity, do visit their website where you can find out more and purchase some local of their handicrafts. JARO website: jaro.org.my

Progress during installation
Driplines are in place, connected to a timer and pump system

Below are some photos taken in February 2020, and in May 2020. Driplines are covered as the GaiaMat ecosystem is established.

Updated pictures taken during CMCO. May 2020
View from the office in May 2020.

The best thing about extensive green roofs and the GaiaMat system is that it is very low maintenace. No need for cutting/trimming and no need for fertilizers. As seen in the pictures above, team Belalang is ready to green up your roofs, be it concrete, metal deck or even GLASS roofs- just send us an enquiry via the “Enquire Now” link above or send us an email at info@belalang.com.my for your own green roof proposal.

Stay safe and stay healthy everyone!

PJ Seapark Residential Green Roof

Last month, Belalangs greened up a rooftop in Seapark, PJ. Apart from the lovely interior and landscape design, we were impressed with the client’s use of space in the home. Glad to have been able to put our Gaiamat in this part of Old Petaling Jaya.