Sun, Jun 12, 2005 - Page 17 News List

Rooftop Gardens

Rooftop gardens are a good way of restoring some nature to the city and promotional initiatives in Taipei are bearing fruit

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fu An Building mid-level garden, designed by HOY Architects and Associates

PHOTO COURTESY OF HOY ARCHITECTS AND ASSOCIATES

In sweltering concrete jungles like Taipei, rooftop gardens are often touted as an effective means of bringing nature back into the city and addressing ecological issues.

The consensus among architects, academics and government officials in Taiwan is that a properly designed, constructed and maintained rooftop garden is entirely beneficial for a building, its residents and the environment in general.

A green roof costs more to build and maintain than other roofs, but the potential energy savings may be able to offset those costs.

HISTORY

From 1974 to 1990, the Taipei City Government provided free soil, fertilizer, plant material and reference books to residents who applied to construct rooftop gardens.

In 1990 the grant policy was put under the administration of district offices, allowing each district to decide how best to distribute the money. Then in 1996 the Public Space Improving, Greening and Beautifying Project (台北市公共空間改善綠美化計畫) was implemented by the city, providing 12 applicants per year with up to NT$600,000 to improve their community environments.

Although there was considerable interest in the project, which would receive 70 to 100 applicants a year, it was axed in 2000 due to budget cutbacks, according to Wu Shu-Jun (吳淑均), section assistant in the department of Economic Development, Taipei City Government.

The Taipei City Government no longer enacts programs to encourage rooftop gardens, but Wu said the department of urban development and the department of civil affairs are working on a new environment-improvement project that will provide advice but no funding to district communities interested in establishing garden areas.

The only national government incentive currently in place is the Green Building Evaluation and Labeling System launched in 1999 by the Architecture and Building Research Institute (ABRI), under the Ministry of the Interior.

A building's environmental credentials are measured using nine indicators: biodiversity, greenery, soil water content, energy saving, indoor environment, water resource, sewage improvement, carbon dioxide emission and waste reduction.

At present only government buildings are required to pass the green building evaluation. Mostly, the credentials are to assist the public and professionals in understanding sustainable building concepts. Although rooftop gardens are not explicitly included in the evaluation, they can be used to earn points in several of the nine categories, explained ABRI research associate Chiu Chiung-yu (邱瓊玉).

GREEN ROOF CASE STUDY

"Rooftop gardens are the first step in sustainable development for buildings," said TC Chang (張子超) Associate professor in the Graduate Institute of Environmental Education National at the Taiwan Normal University. "We have the ability to address ecological issues and raise the overall level of design to reflect sustainable practices."

The graduate department began a rooftop project less than a year ago and the barren concrete rooftop of a 30-year-old building has been transformed into a thriving garden and recreational area.

On one side of the roof is a fully developed garden growing corn, watermelon, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, squash and cucumber, while the other side is covered with an assortment of plants, grass and flowers. A wooden deck, small washroom facility and open kitchen area are being constructed in the center.

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