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Carving an oasis out of rocks

EdgeProp-ILAM Malaysia’s Sustainable Landscape Award 2019: The Mansions @ ParkCity Heights (Gold)

It is hard to imagine that what was once ugly, rocky barren land can be transformed into one of the most expensive and exclusive residential precincts in the township of Desa ParkCity in Kepong, Kuala Lumpur. But that was what exactly landscape architecture firm Praxcis 
Design Sdn Bhd did. The site of an old quarry with large rocky outcrops and terrain ended up as a handsome luxury housing project known as The Mansions @ ParkCity Heights (The Mansions).

Visitors to The Mansions would never suspect how desolate the place was before. Even in the hottest weather, one would be cooled by a constant breeze and the shade from the wide tree canopy. So impressed were they with the landscaping that the judges named The Mansions as one of the Gold winners of EdgeProp-ILAM Malaysia’s Sustainable Landscape Award 2019, part of EdgeProp Malaysia’s Best Managed Property Awards 2019. 

 

A bumpy and hot beginning
Spanning 9.3ha, The Mansions is located at the highest peak of Desa ParkCity which offers exclusive panoramic views of the Kuala Lumpur city skyline and of the entire Desa ParkCity. Developed by Perdana ParkCity Sdn Bhd, it comprises 127 stratified super link terraced houses which were completed in April 2014.

According to Praxcis Design director Yap Nga Tuan, the main challenge in landscaping the area was dealing with its pure granite rock foundation which covers over 80% of the site. The hard surface posed hurdles for tree planting as the root ball of a tree can grow up to 1m but because of the presence of rocks, the foundation could only go up to a depth of 450mm. 

“The other parts of Desa ParkCity are also rocky but earth is present in those areas. Over here, the surface is totally bare. On top of that, when you plant trees into a rock pit, water will gather at the root of the trees because the water cannot go through the rock surface below. So, we have to undertake the process of cutting and trenching into the rock surface to plant in between the gaps as well as to facilitate the drainage of the water at the roots, otherwise the trees will suffocate. We also had to make sure we chose the right species of plants that suit the ecology of the area,” Yap shares.

Furthermore, a rocky hilltop when left totally bare acts as a heat storage area. During the day, heat is absorbed by the rocks and is released at night. 

“So if you build houses on rock surfaces, it is actually very hot. Hence, a lush landscape is needed to give thermal comfort to the residences. The thing about rock surfaces is that the moment you cover it with earth, part of the heat will be absorbed by the earth, making the rock naturally cooler. Not only that, when you plant trees on the a rock surface, the heat is partly taken up by the trees and leaves which leads to less heat being absorbed by the earth and rock. This will achieve a cooling effect to the immediate surroundings by an average of 2 to 4 degrees lower,” says Yap.

The loose and non-regimented layout, together with the shady trees, allow natural wind flow throughout the development. This has increased the rate of heat exchange, thus creating greater thermal comfort. A total of 2,373 new trees were planted, removing a total of 53 tons of carbon dioxide yearly while releasing 237 tons of oxygen.

“We observed to see the original species of plants that are already present there and we picked up similar types of species to be planted. We also found that the water underneath the soil channels towards the gully, so in a way it is self-watering. We also chose canopy type of trees, so they provide shade. For the intimate pathways among the houses, we made sure that the trees planted do not shed leaves often so that not much sweeping is required,” she adds.

A well-designed landscape brings the community together
An interesting feature of The Mansions’ landscape is its very own fruit orchard. Called the Forest Gully, the residents tend to the fruit trees and get to enjoy organic fruits such as durians, mangoes and cikus. 

“The orchard idea actually came from our chairman himself because our shareholders are from Sarawak and they are very into nature and forests. We have to educate the residents that when everyone contributes to the orchard, it will be sustainable and they can enjoy the harvest together. We wanted the residents to know that without togetherness, you cannot sustain anything. It is important that the landscape provides an avenue for residents to build close relationships with one another,” 
Perdana ParkCity township manager deputy director Matthew Lee shares.

Yap concurs: “We now live in a world that is fast moving, digitalised and individualistic in nature. With a good landscape design, we hope to foster good communal kinship and activities to connect people. Be it family or neighbourhood, we want to rekindle the link to nature and to inspire the residents to explore the outdoors. This reconnection is important to us in our design philosophy,” she emphasises. 

Beautiful but is it sustainable?

Lee says the beauty of a stratified development is that the development has to be passed on to the residents eventually, thus they understand the importance of creating a sustainable and stable “template”. 

“Even after five years, our maintenance fee is 20 sen psf. Initially we had 10 gardeners managing The Mansions, but we managed to cut it down to eight with a total expenditure of RM21,000 each month. We have to work hand-in-hand with cost. For example, for the selection of trees for the slopes, we chose self-sustaining trees that do not require a lot of maintenance. They only need some trimming when the tree trunks overgrow,” Lee explains.

Yap stresses that a landscape which is high maintenance may not be sustainable in the long run. At the end of the day, both Yap and Lee share that it was a joint effort by both teams to bring out the best of the landform. 

“We worked very closely with Perdana ParkCity who was very knowledgeable about the entire area and the concept they wanted to put in. We worked to come up with the best design approach in landscaping The Mansions, the ultimate hilltop retreat,” Yap concludes. 

 

Perdana ParkCity is also winner of EdgeProp Malaysia’s Responsible Developer: Building Sustainable Development Award 2019. Watch the video here:

The highlights of the Awards:

Committed to creating a ‘lovable’ township

For an overview of the winners at the Awards: Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah named Malaysia’s Exemplary Leader of Sustainable Development 2019

For more information about the Awards night and the winners, click here.

This story first appeared in the EdgeProp.my pullout on April 26, 2019.You can access back issues here.

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