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A Concise Guide to Rooftop Greening was jointly prepared by National Parks Board

and The Centre for Urban Ecology and Greenery (CUGE).


Contributors:
Ng Cheow Kheng
Nur Faezah Mohd Sanif
Peter Hunt
Poh Choon Hock
Shirley Ling
Simon Longman

We would like to thank the following organisations for their contribution:


Bedok Reservoir Punggol Harmony Residents Committee
City Developments Limited
Elmich Pte Ltd
Far East Organization
Frasers Centrepoint Limited
Garden and Landscape Centre Pte Ltd
Hitchins (FE) Marketing Pte Ltd
Housing Development Board
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
National Archives of Singapore
Shaw Organisation
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Surbana International Consultants Pte Ltd
Uniseal Waterproofing Pte Ltd
Zinco Singapore Pte Ltd

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any means, electronic
or mechanical, including photocopying, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
National Parks Board, 2010

CONTENTS
introduction

benefits of rooftop greenery

. . . good for the environment

ii

. . . brings economic rewards

ii

. . . ideal for social interaction

ii

. . . enhances a buildings aesthetic appeal

10

types of rooftop greenery

12

green roofs

13

roof gardens

15

a selection of rooftop greenery in singapore

16

ready for rooftop greenery?

17

i
ii
faqs

. . . provision of rooftop greenery to new building

17

. . . provision of rooftop greenery to existing building

18
19

INTRODUCTION
Have you ever thought about greening your buildings
rooftop? Well, the art of rooftop greenery is fast
becoming very popular in Singapore. Over the past
few years, more and more buildings, both private
and public, have decided to go green over their
roofs. You will find some interesting rooftop greenery
along the shopping belt in Orchard Road and many
others in the heartlands of Punggol, Queensway and
Woodlands.
If you are keen to find out more about rooftop
greenery, this concise guide will provide you with
useful information and guidelines for this green
journey.

BENEFITS OF
ROOFTOP GREENERY
One of the many benefits of greening your rooftop is
that a green roof will last longer than a conventional
one. It looks more attractive and it also helps reduce
the urban heat island effect that is currently affecting
many urbanised cities like Singapore.
But thats not all. Rooftop greenery is also...

...GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Study of Urban Heat Island in Singapore - Dr Wong Nyuk Hien, 2004

Improve air quality


Rooftop vegetation improves the air quality directly
by filtering airborne particles in their leaves and
branches.
Through photosynthesis, plants on green roofs
contribute to maintaining the stability of the
atmospheres composition.

Better acoustic insulation


Rooftop greenery can reduce noise levels by up to
50 dB.
5

Bare rooftops and concrete surfaces act as


heat sinks, making Singapores urban areas
o
3 C hotter than the rural ones. Rooftop
greenery shields bare surfaces from the harsh
tropical sun, cooling the urban environment.
Are you staying in one of these hotspots?

Conventional Roof vs Green Roof

Conventional Roof

Green Roof

Higher surface temperature

Reduces surface temperature

Higher indoor air temperature

Reduces room temperature

Higher waterproofing damage

Reduces carbon emission

compared to green roofs.

Reduces rain water discharge


for cooler and cleaner
environment.

Improve rainwater retention


Rooftop greenery improves rainwater
retention to help storm drains cope
with severe downpour, reducing flash
floods.
Rooftop greenery can filter heavy
metals and nutrients present in
rainwater, keeping our reservoirs
clean and vibrant.

...BRINGS ECONOMIC REWARDS


Create more usable space
In urban areas, rooftop greenery can be used to
reclaim lost space and create lush green views.

Reduce cooling resources through


better insulation
Rooftop greenery serves as insulation, cooling
buildings and leading to savings of up to 15% from
improved energy efficiency of air conditioning.

Provide savings in drainage infrastructure


The ability of green roofs to retain rainwater and to
lower peak runoff can aid in reducing the extent of
stormwater drainage infrastructure.

Provide space to cultivate vegetables


and food
In urban areas where high-rise dwellers lack space
for a garden, rooftop greenery helps to facilitate
agricultural production.

...IDEAL FOR SOCIAL INTERACTION


Foster community interaction
Roof gardens atop high-rise residences or office
buildings can provide an alternative relaxing setting
for neighbours and colleagues to mingle.

Therapeutic effects and improve


health of its users
Plants can have a restorative effect, which leads to
decreased stress, improved patient recovery rates,
and a higher resistance to illnesses.

Facilitate recreational and


leisure activities
As there is a high premium for land at street level
in the cities, rooftop gardens provide less crowded,
less polluted and less noisy spaces for informal
recreation.

...ENHANCES A BUILDINGS AESTHETIC APPEAL


Improve aesthetic appeal
Landscaping has often been used to improve the
appearance of the urban environment. Greenery
provides visual contrast to the highly built-up city
environment and relief for tired eyes.

Hide unsightly rooftop services


Residents and workers in high-rise developments
often look down on large expanses of ugly asphalt,
tiles, slates and flat roofs. Rooftop greenery provides a
cover and creates better visual interest for rooftops.

Integrate well with buildings


A layer of plants can enhance good design or disguise
bad design in building developments. Plants add
visual interest to plain walls and roofs and soften the
straight edged features of industrial and commercial
properties.

10

11

TYPES OF ROOFTOP GREENERY


There are three types of rooftop greenery - Green Roofs, Hybrid Gardens &
Roof Gardens. The basic layers remain the same although designs may differ.
Green Roofs

Hybrid Gardens

Roof Gardens

Plant Group

Grasses and/or
groundcovers

Grasses and/or
groundcovers
and low shrubs

Grasses,
groundcovers,
shrubs and
trees

System build-up
height

up to 150 mm

up to 250 mm

up to 1500 mm

System build-up
weight

150 kg/m2

300 kg/m2

500 kg/m2

Maintenance

Low

Periodic

High

The above values are estimates. It is advisable to consult a Professional Engineer and landscape
experts for the calculation of loads.

12

GREEN ROOFS

Do not be unduly worried if


your green roof looks a little
unkempt with overgrown
weeds and shrubs - it is part
of the natural green roof look.

Green roofs are not designed for public access.


They are mainly developed for their aesthetic and
ecological benefits.
With their thinner vegetation support layer, green
roofs are lighter compared to the heavier roof
gardens. They also support a limited range of
vegetation species with preference for droughttolerant vegetation with shallow roots.
Requiring minimal maintenance, green roofs are
potential value-adding features to both existing
rooftops and new buildings. Access to green roofs is
limited to periodic maintenance.
13

Vegetation
Growing Medium
Drainage Layer / Water Reservoir
Insulation (optional)
Membrane protection & Root barrier
Roofing Membrane
Structural Support

Typical Cross Section of a


green roof system

There are many ways in which green roofs can be landscaped and set up. Here are the two popular models:

Blanket Model / In situ Green Roof Model

Modular Model

Involves the in situ assembly of green roof


components in sheet layers, directly across the roof

Involves the modularisation of green roof


components into standard small trays that are
assembled and planted ex situ, and later installed
on the roof

Allows lateral migration of water and roots


Has a seamless look
Is customised to fit roof site area

Each tray is equipped with a filter layer, drainage


and storage cells to hold the substrate media for
the plants
Has the appearance of a grid

14

ROOF GARDENS
Roof gardens are developed to be accessible for use.
They usually incorporate areas of paving and seating.
With potentially deeper soil depths to support a wide
range of plant species, roof gardens are more suitable
for new buildings where the building structure can be
appropriately designed to cater for the higher overall
loading.
Regular garden maintenance such as mowing,
fertilising, watering and weeding is required for such
intensive landscaping.

15

A SELECTION OF ROOFTOP GREENERY IN SINGAPORE

Singapore Botanic Gardens

HDB Carpark Roof @ 180 Edgefield Plains

Singapore Flyer

School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University

Peoples Association Headquarters

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital

16

READY FOR ROOFTOP GREENERY?


PROVISION OF ROOFTOP GREENERY
TO NEW CONSTRUCTION
Incorporating rooftop greenery into the original design
of a new construction will save you time and money.
But before deciding on one, do consult the architects
to develop a detailed plan for your rooftop greenery.

17

PROVISION OF ROOFTOP GREENERY TO EXISTING BUILDING


The approach for greening an existing rooftop should be a holistic one. Here are some of the considerations
you have to take into account prior to installation:

Load-bearing capacity
The weight of most green roof systems is between
50 to 150 kg/m2.
Check the current load for the existing roof
The roofs load bearing capacity is usually found in
buildings floor plans

Existing rooftop surface


Ensure that the roof surface is made good prior to
installation of any rooftop greenery.
Roof must be smooth and even
Roof must have minimal or zero cracks
Roof must be adequately sloped to fall

Existing waterproofing of the roof


Installing a green roof over a waterproof membrane
significantly extends the life of the waterproof
membrane and the life cycle of the roof.
Ensure water-tightness on the rooftop before
installing any rooftop greenery

Drainage
Blockage of drainage leads to the continuous
contact of roof surfaces with water or wet soil. It
also leads to unwanted stagnant water which can be
a fertile ground for breeding mosquitoes.
Inspect drainage on rooftops and ensure drainage
routes are not blocked

18

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)


If plants are exposed to a prolonged period of
drought, will they grow back subsequently?
It depends on your choice of plants, which should be
hardy and drought-tolerant.
What is the average weight of a green roof system?
The average weight of green roof system ranges from
50-150 kg/m2.
It is advisable to consult a certified Professional Engineer
on the load bearing capacity of the roof structure,
regardless of whether you are working with a new or
existing building.
Is an irrigation system required?
Green roofs are intended to be non-irrigated. Usually,
the drainage layer comes incorporated with an
integrated water reservoir. However, green roofs with
integrated irrigation are not uncommon.
If you are considering installing irrigation for your green
roof, drip-irrigation is the preferred choice. Sub-surface
drip irrigation optimises the use of water by directly
dampening the substrate.
What is the lifespan of green roof?
The lifespan of a green roof is about 20 years. It can last
longer when well maintained. The conventional exposed
roofs need maintenance every five to ten years.

19

Will a green roof affect my waterproofing?


Correct installation of a green roof will not have any
adverse affect on the waterproofing. The additional
layers of a green roof can protect the roofing
membrane from UV rays, extreme temperature
fluctuations and puncture. The reduced stress can
double the waterproofings serviceable life.
Is rooftop greenery expensive to maintain?
Maintenance costs vary. You can work with your
contractor to design a solution to fit within your
budget.
For the lowest cost, consider a sustainable green roof
where plants are allowed to flourish together as nature
intends. Maintenance is infrequent and this is the best
choice to achieve biodiverse, environmentally friendly
rooftop greenery.

SUGGESTED READING
CUGE STANDARDS
The CUGE Standards is a set of written guidelines for voluntary
adoption in the landscape and horticulture industry. They are written
through a formal process that involves consultation with relevant
bodies and reaching consensus across all interested parties so
that the final document meets the needs of business and industry.
All standards take the form of either specifications, methods,
vocabularies, codes of practices or guides.

CS E 01: 2010
- Guidelines on Design Loads for Rooftop Greenery
The Guidelines On Design Loads for Rooftop Greenery includes
suggested landscape materials and their appropriate placement. A
useful reference for designers and installers of rooftop gardens.
ISBN 978-981-08-5231-3

CS E 02:2010
- Guidelines on Design for Safety onRooftop Greenery
The Guidelines on Design for Safety on Rooftop Greenery
highlights safety considerations during the design, installation and
maintenance phases. A useful reference for designers and installers
of rooftop gardens.
ISBN 978-981-08-5232-0

CS E03:2010
- Guidelines on Substrate Layer for Rooftop Greenery
The Guidelines on Substrate Layer for Rooftop Greenery is
intended to provide an understanding of the constituting substratecomponents, their respective Technical Properties & recommended
Performance Criteria, for effective monitoring of the substrates
overall performance and quality control.
ISBN 978-981-08-7203-8

CS E04:2010
- Guidelines on Filter, Drainage and Root Penetration
Barrier Layers for Rooftop Greenery
The Guidelines on Filter, Drainage and Root Penetration Barrier
Layers for Rooftop Greenery is intended to provide an understanding
of the filter layer, the drainage layer, the root penetration barrier
layer and their respective constituting materials. The guidelines
will also provide the recommended Technical Properties and
Performance Criteria for the effective monitoring of the layers
overall performance, design and installation considerations.
ISBN 978-981-08-7206-9

PUBLICATIONS
Selection of Plants for Green Roofs in Singapore
(2nd Edition)
Editors: Tan Puay Yok & Angelia Sia
This handbook presents a selection of over seventy plants that are
suitable for green roofs in Singapore.
ISBN 978-981-07-0052-2

Introduction to Vertical Greenery


Editors: Derek Chan & Kelly Chiang
An introduction to vertical greenery systems, some basic principles
for set-up, a quick look at classification of systems, and largely with
details on the vertical green systems at Hortpark.
ISBN 978-981-08-1623-0

Vertical Greenery for the Tropics


Editors: Kelly Chiang & Alex Tan
This publication outlines the benefits, technical know-how, and
considerations for design and maintenance in the implementation
of vertical greenery in Singapore and it will serve as a useful
resource for policy makers, city planners, developers, students
and professionals in the architecture, landscape and horticulture
industries, who will be able to glean a greater understanding of
current trends, technical and design considerations as well as the
advantages of vertical greenery.
ISBN 978-981-08-3973-4

National Parks Board


Headquarters
Singapore Botanic Gardens
1 Cluny Road, Singapore 259569
Tel: (65) 64717808, Fax: (65) 67621383
Email: skyrisegreenery@nparks.gov.sg
www.nparks.gov.sg/skyrisegreenery