Vertical horticulture has once again gained mainstream traction, with vertical gardens cropping up in different parts of the city as a way to counter the negative effects of pollution while beautifying them. The idea isn’t new however, as Vincent T. Lim, the principal landscape architect of BCL Asia & Partners Co., says. “It’s only in the recent decade that we started seeing this in the Philippines. It took a while before more people started using it here, primarily because of the upfront costs.”
Manila has its share of green walls in public places, such as the award-winning Coke billboard featuring real plants, the green wall on the San Miguel Building and the pockets of greenery that adorn some of the tunnel walls along EDSA. “Plants have a big role in cleaning the air and absorbing pollutants. Vertical gardens help in reducing heat island effect and even noise pollution. In building applications, they help cool the structure,” Lim says.
Also along EDSA is the Public Safety Savings and Loan Association (PSSLAI) building, which features a green wall running the entire length of the 12-storey, eco-friendly edifice. “The decorative function of the green wall actually goes hand-in-hand with the functional aspect,” says Arch. Liza Morales-Crespo, design principal of Liza Crespo Ecotecture, the firm behind the project. “We situated the green wall on the south side of the building to shield it from the hot afternoon sun.”
A matter of maintenance
Building a green wall isn’t just a matter of slapping some plants on an existing structure. There are factors to consider, such as wind and sun direction, climate suitability and hardiness toward pollution. “Also in the realm of public spaces, when not installed properly, they may break down,” Lim adds.
There is also the issue of maintenance. Crespo, with the help of consultants, made the PSSLAI Building as sustainable as possible. “As a green building, we wanted to make sure that we used rainwater as a means of irrigation for the plants. We also needed to specify plants which were fairly easy to maintain.”
Lim says that a vertical garden’s cost can depend on the gardener’s creativity. “It depends on the source and type of technology. There are efficient and cost-friendly ways to irrigate and maintain vertical gardens. If the green walls are small, say about the height of an ordinary fence, they can be watered manually. It’s just like watering shrubs or trees planted on the ground.”
More than just a trend
Perhaps the biggest draw of a green wall is that it doesn’t require a lot of space. Its orientation makes it suitable for the urban environment—and it doesn’t have to be purely decorative.
Suffice to say, vertical gardens and green walls are here to stay. As urban design embraces a more holistic worldview, more and more people are looking to urban gardening as a means of incorporating greenery into the concrete jungle.
This story was originally published in Northern Living, May 2014.
Writer: YVETTE TAN