indepth

Drawing residents together with simple, functional green spaces

Amidst the rise of vertical urban living, many find themselves being overwhelmed by the development of concrete jungles in cities around the world.

“We cannot deny that we have sacrificed much of our green space for urban development. This makes landscape planning all the more crucial to soften the overall city environment, as well as to allow residents to stay connected to nature,” says Hoda Design Sdn Bhd principal Ho Peng Ming.

Hoda Design is the landscape architect for Twin Arkz @ Bukit Jalil and The Leafz @ Sungai Besi — the former was a Silver winner at EdgeProp-ILAM Malaysia’s Sustainable Landscape Award 2018 while The Leafz received a Special Mention.

Both the projects in the Klang Valley were developed by Exsim Development Sdn Bhd, which Ho says has been very appreciative of the value of landscaping from the very start.

“Exsim Development is very generous when it comes to landscape planning in each of their projects. While many developers only allocate 0.5% of the overall construction cost for landscaping, Exsim always goes beyond that,” Ho says.

He cites The Leafz @ Sungai Besi as an example. The main design requirement for the 3-block residential development sitting on 3.3 acres was that “the buildings should be wrapped in greenery”.

“To create a peaceful green living environment has always been the company’s goal, especially for our urban high-rise projects. Our first residential development was The Treez @ Bukit Jalil, followed by The Leafz @ Sungai Besi. We wanted both projects to stay relevant and carry the company’s project DNA — outstanding landscape planning,” Exsim Development head of corporate communications Michelle Siew tells EdgeProp.my.

“Generally, our budget for landscape planning in a project is higher than the market average. However, when I mention higher, it is only 5% or 6% of the overall construction cost. We think the investment is worth every sen because in return, we get a project with a strong character that speaks for the brand,” she adds.

Completed in the second quarter of 2015, The Leafz merges sustainable technology and art to create a serene environment for its residents. The living green walls and roof gardens help to cool down the surroundings. They also optimise the flow of oxygen and reduce carbon dioxide, thus providing crisp fresh air.

Meanwhile, the sky lounge with its infinity pool is inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

“The landscape concept is inspired by the morphology and anatomy of leaves where the midribs and venation are highly
emphasised with simple lines and texture,” Ho explains.

Another key aspect of The Leafz is tree preservation. “We try to preserve as many trees as possible. We also used recycled and leftover building materials in the hardscape. For example, some benches are made from leftover bricks,” he says.

“Our job is to beautify the building, not to destroy the original setting and build something not sustainable,” he adds.

One feature that takes pride of place at The Leafz is the kitchen garden corner on the rooftop, initiated by Exsim.

“It is a corner planted with different edible plants such as lemon grass and pandan leaves. Ho proposed that we use organic fertiliser in this kitchen garden, considering these are edible plants, so we did despite the higher cost,” says Siew.

The investment has paid off because it is one of the residents’ favourite spots. Even after handing over the project to the joint management body, the chairman maintained the landscape and gardening contract because the residents wanted the landscaped features to remain the same although it entails higher overall maintenance cost.

Less is more

Ho stresses that maintenance is not as costly as many people imagine. “Yes, there are many things to be done — watering, pruning, trimming, clearing leaves, fertilising and others — but do you know that all these actually require very minimal monthly cost compared with the monthly electricity bills or the cost of the wear and tear of the entire development?”

Following the experience at landscaping The Leafz, a simpler landscape design was proposed for Exsim’s subsequent development — Twin Arkz @ Bukit Jalil.

“Landscape planning is more than just about planting trees. It is about space planning to make common spaces useful and beautiful. We need to consider the hardscape such as what plants to use and where to plant them, as well as the softscape such as choosing the right outdoor furniture and where to put them,” Ho explains.

According to him, the keyword for a sustainable landscape is “simple”.

“I learnt something through the years and that is ‘less is more’. You do not need complicated designs to make a project stand out. You can make a project unique with simple and sustainable landscape,” Ho notes.

“For example, a water fountain may look good but may require high monthly maintenance cost. You can replace it with a simple open green lawn with tree shades and benches, which look just as nice but more functional. This is simple, easy to maintain and will stand the test of time because plants become more beautiful as they mature.”

At Twin Arkz, non-functional pocket spaces were minimised as the focus was on the functionality of the common spaces. For instance, the lush green space in front of the drop-off area not only serves as a pathway for residents to take a relaxing morning or evening stroll but also as a buffer wall to screen off the main road, thus creating more privacy for residents and visitors.

Simplicity was also adopted in the choosing of the plants. “We chose simple but evergreen plants,” Ho says.

Twin Arkz sits on a 1.87-acre freehold site sandwiched between the 80-acre Bukit Jalil Recreational Park and the Bukit Jalil Golf & Country Club. The project was inspired by the concept of a missionary ark — a symbol of sanctity and life. Two star-gazing decks in the shape of an ark sit majestically atop both towers.

As for its landscape design, the ground floor was inspired by the movements of water, hence green hedges were planted in wavy lines complemented by the curvy lines of the patterned floor to create a pleasing outdoor garden.

Lush trees were placed at every outdoor and semi-outdoor space within the building to provide shade and a green environment.

The highlight of Twin Arkz @ Bukit Jalil landscaping is its urban farming garden — an upgraded version of The Leafz’s kitchen garden.

“The urban farming was the first thing that came to our minds because everyone loved the kitchen garden at The Leafz. At Twin Arkz, we decided to make the garden bigger so more plants can be planted and more community activity can be conducted in the space,” says Exsim’s Siew.

Called the Sky Farm, the urban farm is on the rooftops of both towers and boasts an array of edible plants and fruits such as watermelon!

“From our observation, the farm or garden is not only a handy place for you to pluck some herbs when you need them for cooking, it is also a place where you get the chance to know your neighbours and socialise — another example how landscaping can add value to an investment,” Ho offers.

Both Siew and Ho agree that projects that have landscaping integrated into their design and architecture stand out from the competition, especially in a market where demand for lifestyle living is rising today.

Siew agrees with Ho that more property buyers are looking at the landscape concepts of new developments now.

“Some purchasers actually ask who the landscape architect is during our new project launches. They want a project that offers landscaping that is as nice as our completed projects,” Siew shares.

This story first appeared in EdgeProp.my pullout on May 11, 2018. Download EdgeProp.my pullout here for free.

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