Yesterday, during my coffee time with Sen Manny Villar, I managed a brief conversation with his sons Mark and Paulo. I knew their father wouldn’t have enough time to listen to some amateur Filipino environmentalist talk about his pet project, so I decided to take my chances with the younger Villars. Gracious and articulate, both men listened patiently while I spoke rapid-fire about a project close to my heart: green roofs.
I first learned of the concept of green roofs through a special feature in National Geographic; more information on the concept can be found at Roofing Compare. A long-time concept implemented in Europe, green roofs are now catching on in many other nations, including the United States and China, which would do well to reduce their carbon footprints, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand.
What are green roofs? In a nutshell, a green roof (or “living roof”) is any building roof that is covered with plants and soil, designed in several layers to provide rainwater absorption. There are many reasons why we in Manila would want to consider green roofs:
- Green roofs insulate buildings, protecting them from the searing heat of the sun. When done in an urban area on a large-scale basis, green roofs can greatly regulate city temperatures.
- Green roofs absorb rainwater, enabling us to either tap the rainwater to maintain the vegetation of the roof or to collect the rainwater for reuse in other areas of the household or business.
- Green roofs are a solid solution for floodwater reduction because of the absorption effect. In a highly urban area like Metro Manila, green roofs can significantly reduce flooding!
- Green roofs are great for wildlife. Butterflies and bees are drawn to green roofs.
- Green roofs look wonderful. Who hates gardens?
The green roof industry in the Philippines is in its stages of infancy. The largest green roof project in the country thus far is the SM North EDSA Sky Garden. While not technically a green roof through and through, the Sky Garden is a roof garden that boasts of an environment-friendly storm water infrastructure; it catches rainwater that is then recycled for use in mall maintenance. Among green roof’s main champions are Engineer Andrew Lo, of Amyda Constructions and Eco-Roofs Inc., and ecologist couple Christoph Ranzinger and Agnes Calda, who are generally recognized as the builders of the first green roof in the Philippines. (Curious about what their home looks like? Click through here.) I don’t know of other green roof contractors in the Philippines, but if you find your way here, please contact me and I’ll link to you. (And Engineer Lo, if you read this, call me! We can attempt to do it ourselves, but green roof experts generally advocate seeking professional assistance. I can’t even climb onto my roof, much more greenify it!)
I cannot stress the importance and significance of green roofs as an integral part of a successful urban planning and management solution. We live in a temperate climate: green roofs are a practical solution to reducing the heat of our cities and the amount of floodwater generated during typhoon season. We have limited urban space to build new parks and gardens, but we have so much space literally on top of us contributing little to the solution.
Government can also assist in helping the green roof revolution. Recently, Quezon City legislators passed an ordinance advocating significant real estate tax reductions for owners whose homes are green roofed, as well as 30% of the roof area of all new buildings constructed to be dedicated to natural landscaping and/or green roofing; the ordinance awaits the signature of Major Sonny Belmonte. (Hopefully, the Villars will consider green roofing legislation in Las Pinas too.)