Cultivating the ideal ‘backyard’ – from above

In 2001, new buildings in Tokyo covering more than a 1000 square-meter area were required to green at least 20% of their useable roof space to combat the “heat island effect.” The enlightened policy was widely praised by urban planners at the time, but it was hardly an original idea—the Hanging Gardens of Babylon built over 2500 years ago, for example, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, engineered an unforgettable, ascending tier of gardens populated with all kinds of trees, shrubs, and vines.

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Urban roof gardens, we now know, have proven environment, economic, and emotional benefits.

For their in-building ecosystems, Rockwell Center and Greenbelt 5 in Makati, the Medical City in Pasig, the Mind Museum in Taguig, and the Sarossa Hotel in Cebu City all use the European-designed DAKU Roof Garden Engineering System. DAKU is exclusively installed by Specserv, a pioneering Filipino company, handpicked by distributors and consumers alike for its extensive knowledge on waterproofing for the past three decades.

DAKU dispels six misconceptions about roof gardens:

  1. Roof gardens are prone to leaks.  Not necessarily. All roofs must have proper waterproofing and drainage systems installed by a trusted contractor with wide experience. DAKU uses Nuraplan PVC sheet membrane that is root- and rot-proof. This technology has insulated, for example, the Ayala Triangle Garden basement parking area for 15 years from the “root attack” of very large trees above it.
  2. Roof gardens flood. Old roof garden systems certainly due to soil-clogged drains. DAKU, however, uses a unique planting medium allowing water to easily flow into a storage and drainage cell called FSD 20, designed to efficiently collect then gradually siphon off excess rainwater.
  3. Roof gardens are useful only for aesthetic purposes. No, they also reduce the heat absorption of buildings, lowering air-conditioning costs. On a social level, they create recreational spaces, and when used with imagination can even be utilized for small-scale urban agriculture.
  4. Roof gardens are high-maintenance. The DAKU element reservoir-and-substrate system can store up to 55 liters of water/square meter, significantly reducing irrigation requirements. Moreover, the planting medium (unlike normal garden soil) entails far fewer man-hours of cultivation labor.
  5. Roof gardens are structurally unfriendly. Untrue, because the lightweight engineering system behind DAKU only weighs 170 kilograms per square meter even when wet.
  6. Roof gardens are too expensive. In truth, choosing the right system not only creates welcome spaces for social interaction and lowers a building’s environmental footprint (likely reducing energy costs), it also often adds to property market value.

Specserv has modified the DAKU Roof Garden Engineering System to service homeowners who also wish to be part of this inner-city ecological innovation. Dubbed BUNGKAL (short for Bubong Kalikasan or “Nature’s Roof”), the recalibrated technology now offers affordable and adjustable light-roof garden systems to residences.

The megacities we live in need not be concrete jungles. There can still be pockets of greenery that nourish the soul and at the same time help solve broader environmental issues—one rooftop at a time.

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Introvert, wanderer, blogger, foodie, a hip-hop music writer, and one of the co-founders of a tech start-up company called GigsManila.