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.