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I recently spied an ingenious way to install a green wall in a very small space – literally at the entrance of a house beside the front door.
A lightweight metal structure, used I think to stabilize & reinforce the concrete when forming cement slabs, has been fixed to the brick wall. A Star Jasmine vine is being trained up through the metal & will very quickly hide as well as pad the structure transforming this area into a green wall.
Not only have they repurposed the metal structure making this a sustainable approach, the green wall will also help lower the heat of their front porch & at least part of their house in summer as they face west. The green wall will add significant beauty making a nice entrance & also a cool green porch to sit in if they wish.
Star Jasmine is very quick to grow. It is soft to touch & can be cut back easily. In the weeks around Christmas, this wall will be covered in highly perfumed white flowers, which will probably fill the house with a lovely scent.
I think this is a terrific idea that can easily be done on other walls & structures.
Recently I attended a verge garden workshop run by Marrickville Council. We were shown a Photoshop mockup of similar plans for an exterior wall on a corner property to stop the constant graffiti tagging. Lightweight metal gridding standing a few centimeters from the wall will be attached & a couple of vines like Star Jasmine planted in the ground & trained up to cover the wall.
Within a short time this will become a green wall & probably the pride of the local community. Because the metal structure will not touch the wall, except for the attachment points, there will be no problems with rising damp or any other damage. It looked terrific & appealed to all the participants.
Sydney City Council has done much larger versions under the overhead roadways near the Fish Markets & along the railway line in Erskineville & these green walls look fantastic. It’s fairly cheap to do, Star Jasmine is long-lived & easily managed & pretty much everyone likes green walls, including wildlife. It will also permanently stop tagging.
Imagine how Marrickville LGA could look if the exterior of buildings on corners & laneways were to become green walls. They soften harsh landscapes, lower the urban heat island effect, offer habitat for small birds, lizards & insects & add beauty for the eye.
Today I drove through the city to Darlinghurst. As I don’t get to the CBD often, my drive through the city held a number of surprises. Unfortunately, I didn’t take my camera with me. My apologies to those who see these things every day.
First, there is a major high-rise building being built at the new Central Park complex at Broadway. It looks to be the first building of the residential section called One Central Park. What grabbed my attention were the green walls that are being planted & even at this early stage one can see that they are going to be fantastic.
I’m used to seeing photos of amazing green walls in other cities on social media so it is wonderful that something so innovative & friendly to both people & the environment is actually happening in Sydney. You can see a 3D visual plan of the Central Park complex here. It’s green. http://www.centralparksydney.com/master-plan/
As we took the turn into Pitt Street towards Eddy Avenue, the view down George Street was of tall green trees & shade everywhere. It really surprised me. I used to work at this end of George Street & the transformation is incredible. My first thought was that the major arterial road in the CBD could be lined with tall street trees, yet we can’t have the same across suburban Marrickville LGA?
Oxford Street in Darlinghurst was also filled with tall leafy street trees. There were also massive pots of red Begonias hanging from smart poles giving a wonderful burst of colour wherever you looked. Taylor Square has a large water fountain. Don’t tell me it happened 10-years ago. It is now a very colourful pedestrian plaza & looks great.
We parked in Darlinghurst & noted the large street trees everywhere. Being a boiling hot day it was pleasant to be out on the street as shade covered much of the footpaths as well as the road itself. Canopy is not token here. The street trees cascade over the road & are planted close enough so that their canopy links with the street trees next to them. It’s visually very beautiful.
All street trees were surrounded by a permeable bitumen surface. This would prevent any tripping in such a high pedestrian traffic area, but also not create a space for litter to collect.
So I drove away from leafy Sydney into Marrickville LGA. I have long noticed the differences in canopy between the suburbs of our municipality & between the municipalities that border us. As the City of Sydney increases their canopy a further 50%, the differences between us will be stark & no longer something people will ignore or I think even accept.
Barcelona in Spain has delivered an amazing 8-storey green wall outside an already standing building, proving that green walls do not need to be the domain of new developments.
As the world heats up, this kind of initiative will need to become more commonplace. We cannot continue to create urban environments that are essentially a mix of hard surfaces on different levels – from streets to walls & roofs on high-rise buildings. We will bake unless we make changes to the way we build.
A green wall is not only a living entity; it is also a working entity cleaning up air pollution. Green walls have many benefits. They cool down the building & the local area. They add beauty to the streetscape & have a positive impact on the health & happiness of people who live or work in the building & also those who pass by. They also add to biodiversity. Green walls make sense, especially as the population increases & land becomes scarcer.
What is terrific about this particular green wall in Barcelona is that what was once a large 8-storey blank wall has now been transformed into a living green wall. A scaffold-like structure was built in the air space outside the building. Therefore the plants & the water that is used to keep the plants alive will not impact on the structure of the building, something that concerns many. A staircase & floors have been created between the wall & the building to allow maintenance. The planted boxes are modular & can be removed & replaced. So can plants, making it easy to remove any that may have died.
The designing Architect Juli Capella says they have identified seven species of birds that use this particular green wall as well as flying foxes & geckos. These are shown as an interpretive sign near the green wall to educate the public. The green wall has turned into an attraction with a monocular installed so people can zoom in to have a close look at the plants. Initially the locals were worried about the birds & insects & the ‘evils of nature,’ but now are happy with the wall.
This could be done here in Marrickville municipality if the owners of buildings were willing & if Marrickville Council encouraged it. Green walls like this one would certainly significantly add to the value of their properties as well as provide the community major inspirational beauty to the streetscape & make it a healthier place to live.
If I had my way, all new developments would include green walls in some way because they are so beneficial. In time it will happen, as I believe Architects will not want to be viewed as out of date & out of touch with the community’s desires when other Architects design more people & environmentally friendly office & residential buildings. Until then we can look at what is happening overseas as well as in the City of Sydney Council area, as they are embracing green walls with a passion to make Sydney a very livable city.
You can watch a short video of the green wall in Barcelona here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oC_ghwmBV4
Can you imagine a 110-metre-high apartment complex with the walls covered in 100,000 native & exotic plants? Well it is about to happen at One Central Park, the new retail/residential area called Central Park at Broadway in Chippendale due to be completed in 2013.
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald said the building complex will have, “two dozen ”green wall” panels, some as high as 16-storeys, which will be attached to the north & south facades of the development’s east & west towers facing Broadway.”
“Species include varieties of red, pink and purple bougainvillea, dwarf bottle brushes, with deep-red flowers, and vine species with flowers in whites, reds, yellows and purples.”
As well as the 24 vertical green walls there will be 2,700 planter boxes attached to the unit balconies. Levels 29-33 of the east tower will have a Sky Garden that juts out & hovers in the air. There is a 1.5-minute video connected with the article. http://bit.ly/NTfR0P
The Central Park complex will also have a public park, “approximately 6,500 square metres & will span 115-metres in length & 50-metres in width, in a rectangular shape.” It will have cycle way, a pedestrian boulevard, a large water feature & public art. You can read more about this here – http://bit.ly/O3FBS0
The City of Sydney Council is currently setting up a Green Roofs & Walls Strategy. This tells me they have great plans to incorporate these green initiatives into new developments as part of their overall plan to green the city & suburbs that make up the City of Sydney LGA.
When I read what the City of Sydney is planning for greening the city & suburbs, I feel happy as this is my city too & I do have an emotional investment. I also wish that the City of Sydney’s attitude to innovative strategies for greening the environment flows through to my own Council. I hope that the new developments that will be springing up throughout Marrickville municipality will have visible green features & an emphasis on making people-friendly places.
I found the following about the ‘Green Sydney Plan’ on the City of Sydney Council’s Green Villages website – http://bit.ly/OBZsMy Sydney Council plans to increase the tree canopy cover by a whopping 50% by 2030 as well as create wildlife corridors using locally-indigenous plant species.
They also plan to create more green walls & verge gardens to deal with stormwater runoff as well as collaborate with property owners to create green walls & green roofs. I was sad that green walls & roofs were not included in Marrickville’s newly completed LEP. I myself heard an Architect at a meeting of the Joint Regional Planning Panel answer a question from the panel as to why green features such as walls & roofs was not included in the design. His answer was that the LEP did not require him to look at this, so he didn’t.
This showed me that, for the most part, Architects will not start to incorporate these kinds of green features in their designs until this becomes a requirement (to at least look at incorporating them). With so much development coming our way across Marrickville LGA, I fear that we will have developments approved that are less than what they could be to take us into the next 60 years where the climate is expected to be very different. Attributes like green walls & green roofs have so many benefits & would definitely help make life easier & cheaper for people residing in them as well as being great for the environment.
City of Sydney Council have developed a Footpath Gardening Policy which will allow “residents & businesses to place a planter box on a public footpath, or establish a garden on a verge or nature strip without a development application, subject to safety & access.” Marrickville Council has done the same with verge gardens, but not planter boxes as far as I am aware.
Hopefully businesses will catch on that a pretty frontage created just by installing a planter box filled with greenery or seasonal flowers will pay them back in increased patronage.
The interest in verge gardens by residents is growing with the recognition that the streetscape can benefit from greening & beautification, as well as wasted land being used for growing purposes. The ‘Sustainable Streets’ initiative in Chippendale is moving at great knots & motivating a lot of people by showing that it can be done & that it is a great way to bring the community together. I will post an update on their developments soon.
One other thing Sydney Council mentioned was including the community in a range of ways, including ‘junior rangers.’ I’m not sure what this means, but if it means people looking after parks & talking to people about not trashing the place with litter & all the other antisocial behaviour that impacts heavily on other park users & the environment such as what I have been posting about that occurs routinely in Tempe Reserve, then this will be a fantastic initiative.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore says, “Having high-quality open space is very important for the health & happiness of our community. We know that trees & other plantings help absorb carbon pollution & help cool our city. Well landscaped streets also provide more enjoyable spaces for the local community & support local businesses & retailers by making our villages’ attractive destinations.” She’s got that right.
You can download the Masterplan here. It’s a great document that holds a lot more information than just where they intend to plant trees & is easy to read. – http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/Council/OnExhibition/documents/Plan-Greening_Sydney_PlanDOCUMENT-FinalDraftpre-exhibitionSet2011.PDF
There has been some great collaborative work done between Marrickville Council & local community group The Phillip & Gladstone Street Pride Group. Marrickville Council has, on the request of the group, created 12 new tree pits & verge gardens on Phillip & Gladstone Streets in Enmore. Apparently there was a lot of concrete & rubble once the surface of bitumen had been removed & some of the pits needed quite a lot of work to clear them.
Council had originally planned to plant Water Gums along here, but apparently don’t have any in stock so may be planting Banksias. The decision isn’t final as the residents have asked for Blueberry Ash trees to be planted instead.
Apart from the 12 new verge gardens Marrickville Council has extended a number of other verges, including those around the 3 trees next to the new mural on the Alfalfa House building. The Phillip & Gladstone Street Pride Group will manage these as well as the other verge gardens.
Council is also contacting Railcorp on behalf of the group to request that a structure to create a green wall be allowed to be installed along the awful brick wall that runs along the railway line. If Railcorp say yes, & I can’t see why they shouldn’t as any structure would not damage their wall, then it will do much to make this area look softer & green. The wall is painted an ugly brown & is a magnet for taggers.
City of Sydney Council have many green walls along rail lines & along major roads showing that they are easy to install & grow well with out the need for much maintenance. A green wall is something the group could maintain quite easily, especially with soft vines & it would make a tremendous & positive difference to the streetscape benefiting the local community. It would be a good advertisement for Railcorp’s relations with the community as well.
The owner of the unit block on the corner of Phillip & Charles Street met with the group & kindly agreed to remove the concrete on the Phillips Street side of the building. The group has already planted out this garden & intends to remove the graffiti tagging on the wall as well.
Council helped further by creating a verge garden outside this building on Phillip Street & will plant a street tree. This will in time soften the building, which is a prominent feature in the street. Both the trees & the gardens will benefit the owner by increasing the value of his property.
Last week the Phillip & Gladstone Street Pride Group contacted me with very good news – Marrickville Council awarded them a grant of $500 to help pay for the plants for their verge gardens.
Congratulations to the residents who have worked hard here & thanks to Marrickville Council for supporting such a great community initiative with money, machinery, advice, new trees & new verge gardens. Hopefully the positive collaboration between residents & Marrickville Council will encourage other such groups to get established across Marrickville LGA.
Marrickville Council has released plans for enhancement works on Station Street & part of Schwebel Street Marrickville. Station Street connects with the west-bound platform of Marrickville Railway Station & is referred to as a ‘gateway to Marrickville.’
This area has looked very neglected, tired & ugly for many years & street enhancement works are long over-due. The following is what Council intends to do - “The proposed enhancement works will be staged depending on funding (meaning that it could take years for the improvements to be completed) & include the following attributes -
- Full decorative paving of station street footpaths &
- making station street a ‘10 km/hr shared zone’ for pedestrians, cyclists & vehicles
- partial raising of the roadway on station street (near the train station) & decorative paving;
- full decorative paving of footpath in schwebel street & kerb extensions
- Resealing of the road surface on station street & the surrounding adjacent lane
- colouring the road surface in the shared zone area
- parallel to kerb parking on both sides of station street
- changing the traffic flow on station street from ‘two-way’ to ‘one-way’ (in north eastern direction from schwebel street to leofrene street) to better manage & accommodate traffic & pedestrian movements
- providing landscaping, including street trees & landscaped areas where possible
- Decorative bollards & street furniture on station street in selected locations
- upgrading & extending the existing stormwater system on station street & schwebel street to better manage overland flows during heavy storm events
- providing water sensitive urban design features, including up to 2 rain gardens & possible porous paving
- a ‘loading zone’ on station street outside shops
- a mobility parking space on schwebel street
- two motor cycle parking spots & cycle parking on station street
- filtered drinking water fountain.”
I like the filtered drinking fountain, the new street trees, the park bench, the disabled parking space & the 2 raingardens.
I question the location of the disabled parking space on Schwebel Street as it is almost as far away from the railway station as you can get. I think Council wants this one space to provide for both the railway station & the shopping strip. The loss of parking spaces on Station Street would concern me if I had a business in this area.
Hard surfaces are a strong feature in these plans. Black pavers will be put on the footpath on 3 sides of the block & on a new footpath across the road & infront of the railway station. Porous pavers will be placed in the car parking spaces & the road surface at the entrance to Station Street. The full length of Station Street adjacent to the railway station will be terracotta-coloured paving instead of the current bitumen & the rest of Station Street will be resurfaced with bitumen. While pavers are okay, I think they cost an extraordinary amount of money & will become dirty with globs of chewing gum within months.
4 tree pits will be created for 4 new street trees… or there could be 6 new street trees. The plans are not clear to me just how many trees & which species of tree goes in what place. I think Lilly pillies (Syzgium luehmanii) will be planted along the first section of Station Street before the railway station, 2 on each side. I think 1 Callery pear (pyrus calleryana) will be planted in each of the 2 raingardens situated on the corner of Station & Schwebbel Streets & the corner of Leofrene Street & Schwebbel Street. I think. Raingardens across Marrickville LGA don’t usually include trees, especially taller growing trees, so it might be just 2 Lilly pillies & 2 Callery pear trees, not 6 trees all up.
A hedge of Photinia ‘rubens’ will be planted in 45-metres of new garden bed beside the wall that runs along where Illawarra Road travels over the railway line. My concern about this hedge is, being an Asian exotic, it offers nothing for wildlife, though it would be better than the current dirty brick wall.
The plans include a new footpath next to the hedge & along the fence line of the railway station. I suspect very few people will use these footpaths as most exit the station & walk along the footpath outside the shops on Station Street or cut across the street in a long diagonal sweep to get to the pedestrian crossing at the corner of Schwebel Street & Illawarra Road. The new footpath area is currently a drop-off & pick-up zone. Many more vehicles use it than what is to become a 3 car & 2 motorcycle parking area. The plans to narrow the street will make drop-offs & pick-ups a cause for blockages of the street & inevitable arguments. Waiting cars will likely move to Schwebel Street creating different problems.
The community can make comment & give feedback to Council about the proposed enhancements of Station Street. The following is what I would create in this space -
I suspect the hard surfaces alone will amount to the bulk of the plan’s budget though there is no indication how much these works will cost. Instead of spending money on pavers the budget could be spent on large planter boxes to surround 3 sides of this block of shops & apartments. I’d also copy City of Sydney Council & install large hanging baskets of red Begonias at regular intervals….planter box, hanging basket, planter box, hanging basket etc. Living colour would have a much greater & pleasant impact on the streetscape than pavers & be visible from a much greater distance.
I’d like to see a tall steel trellis structure placed outside the length of the railway station fence instead of a new footpath & planted with vines to create a green wall. This would offer the shops a green vista, create shade at certain times of the day, lower the urban heat island effect, add beauty & green up this area. It would also act as a windbreak as well as reduce the noise from passing trains. The railway station commuters would also benefit. I’d also create another green wall for the 45-metre length of brick wall that is beneath Illawarra Road & fronts onto Station Street.
City of Sydney Council used steel structures that take up a minimum amount of space to create green walls under the overpass near the Pyrmont Fish Markets to great effect. Railcorp has done similar in Newtown. Vine covered structures would require far less care & could reach a much greater height than a hedge. If it has to be a hedge against this wall, I’d like it to be an Australian native that provides food for wildlife, like a Callistemon.
I’d also plant a tall tree with a large canopy in each of the raingardens, because raingardens can be much more than just grasses. If the raingardens are where the Callery pear trees are meant to go, I’d change the species of tree to something that was evergreen & offered food & habitat to wildlife.
One person suggested to me that tall-growing Eucalypts should be planted along the wall beside Illawarra Road where the hedge & new footpath is planned. These trees would match the Casuarinas across the railway line at the side of the old Marrickville RSL & the Eucalypts planted by Railcorp on the other side of Illawarra Road. They would do away with the Callery pear trees altogether & plant something that is useful to wildlife.
If you want to have an input on how this ‘gateway to Marrickville’ will look, you will need to put in a submission. The deadline for submissions is 5pm, Friday 23rd March 2012. I would suggest that your submission also be forwarded to all the Marrickville Councillors as they will be the ones who vote on the final approval.
Both the Council & the Councillors email addresses can be found at the top of this blog. You can download the 1-page plans here – http://www.marrickville.nsw.gov.au/marrwr/_assets/main/lib65096/proposed%20enhancement%20works%20at%20station%20st,%20marrickville.pdf
There is a push happening in the US as high as President Obama to paint all roofs across the country white. The benefits of white roofs are frankly astounding & it won’t take long before the white roof movement hits Australia in a big way.
I suspect there will be resistance to change due to familiarity of red roofs. Also, some people will be concerned about the Feng Shui of white roofs as they represent death or mourning. Red roofs, the colour of most of Australian tiles, means money coming in. Black or dark grey tiles are seen as a cloud of depression & doom hanging over your home & to be avoided. Blue roofs are the worst as they represent water overhead causing the residents to always be drowning in problems.
According to the US Department of Energy white roofs keep buildings cooler in summer & slightly warmer in winter & can save 10-15% of energy used for air conditioning.
White roofs & light coloured pavements change the solar reflectance (albedo) because the sunlight comes down & is reflected back into space, thereby not adding to the greenhouse gases.
White roofs do not add to the Heat Island Effect, something that is going to become a real issue in the years ahead if not enough is done to reduce it. We will all be boiled alive whilst going about our business, literally. Death due to heat will become more commonplace. Manhattan has been found to be 5 degrees (22 F) hotter than surrounding suburbs simply due to the Heat Island Effect.
To combat the Heat Island Effect there needs to be a combined approach of planting more shade-producing broad-leaf street trees & more ground vegetation. Asphalt should be removed where possible, especially great expanses like car parks. Of equal importance is installing green roofs & walls or using solar reflective white coatings on both walls & roofs.
Research by the US Department of Energy found if all the roofs on Earth were replaced with white roofs & light-coloured cement pavements were used in all cases, the sunlight reflected back into space would be the equivalent of removing all vehicles off the roads worldwide for 11 years. This is significant, hence the push in the US to make all roofs white. If all the walls were white or light coloured, the positive impact would be even greater. If all cars were light-coloured, the car would need less air conditioning to keep it cool. Soon you won’t be able to by a dark-coloured car.
The monetary cost of white roofs & light-coloured pavements is equivalent to the cost of materials we use now. White roofs can be used in combination with solar panels.
Already available on the market are nanotechnology heat reflective paints that can be painted over roof tiles or sheeting. These reflect between 90-95% of UV, infrared & visual light & prevent heat transfer into the roof space. Tests have shown that roof space under a dark roof can be up to 50 degrees higher than outside air temperature.
There has been some resistance to white roofs for fear they will get dirty & look bad within a couple of years. They will, though some products have Titanium Dioxide in them that is said to make the roof self-cleaning. How fast the roof becomes dirty & loses its reflective ability depends on the location of the building & the slope of the roof. The dirt that dulls the white roof is airborne dust & particulate matter from traffic pollution. It’s the stuff we breathe in daily & what street trees help prevent coming into our homes. The roof can be power cleaned once or twice a year to return the colour back to sparkling white.
I suspect the need to wash one’s roof regularly will be another source of resistance to white roofs. My bet is that eventually governments will offer significant tax rebates for those who have white roofs. Plus power costs will be at nightmare levels so people will be forced to do whatever is available to help keep costs down. I’ve just heard on ABC News tonight a warning that electricity costs will be 100% higher by 2015 & 500% higher by 2020. We will be forced to change & accept sustainable & green cooling & heating methods.
That’s when trees are going to undergo a revolution in image & people will return to being tolerant about fallen leaves, wildlife & fixable cracks to paths & fences. People are going to want tall shade-producing trees near their home & on the street because of the tree’s ability to lower power bills by cooling the air. As the Heat Island Effect increases, so does air pollution, especially pollution near the ground & the trees’ natural ability to clean the air will be recognized as a significant benefit.
New York City found that the ability to cool an area cheaply & effectively was by planting street trees so they started the 1 Million Trees program. The next best for cooling an area is by creating green roofs, using light covered roof & wall surfaces & planting in open spaces.
The Manhattan Young Democrats have set up the White Roof Project to curb the effects of climate change, to make the city cooler & to lower New York City’s energy use & their program is very successful. Volunteers paint city roofs with reflective white paint purchased from donations. You can even have a white roof named in your honour for the paltry sum of US$1,000. I applaud them for their idea, their commitment & their hard work. For a great visual explanation of the Heat Island Effect & how painting roofs white can curb climate change see - http://www.whiteroofproject.com/how-we-can-curb-climate-change/
Australia should be seriously looking at white roofs & white walls. The only exception should be a green roof or green walls with living plants.