YOUR TOP QUESTIONS ANSWERED: ROOFTOP GARDENS

Rooftop gardens are the ultimate way to transform an urban area into a relaxing green space. If you have been thinking about utilising your rooftop, chances are these questions have crossed your mind.

Image via Inside Out.  Design: William Dangar Photography: Chris Warner 

Image via Inside Out.  Design: William Dangar Photography: Chris Warner 

1. How can I use my rooftop as a liveable space?

While rooftops present certain challenges, they also give you the opportunity to create an outdoor area for relaxing, entertaining and gardening. To turn a rooftop into a liveable space, the biggest issue you need to address is a lack of protection from the sun and wind, as too much exposure to the elements will really undermine your enjoyment of a space.

The most effective way to overcome these issues is to create protected nocks within the large area. You can do this using built shade structures, small trees or hardy hedge varieties. This layer of protection will ensure that both you and your plants will be comfortable year round.

2. Can I have a grassed area on my rooftop?

Lawn is a wonderful addition to a rooftop garden, especially if you have children or pets. Given that rooftops are hot and windy spaces, artificial lawn is the most practical solution for this type of garden. It doesn’t require any maintenance and there are some fantastic options now available.

Artificial lawn can get hot in the sun, so have some kind of shade available such as a portable outdoor umbrella that you can pull out on hot days.

With an open grassed space, glass balustrades and low-set planting scheme, this rooftop garden in Sydney designed by Secret Gardens allows occupants to relax and appreciate the view. 

Image via Secret Gardens

Image via Secret Gardens

3. How can I introduce shade into a rooftop garden?

Fixed structures are the most realistic shade option for a rooftop garden. This is due to the sheer amount of wind that rooftops are exposed to. Ensure your shade structure is strong and fixed to the wall and floor.

Options for shade include pergolas or open structures that can be used for growing climbers. Only use an umbrella or a retractable awning if you have the discipline to put them away before heading indoors. Supplementary sources of shade include small trees and green walls.

In the planning phase, study the direction of the sun so you can position your shade structure and plants in a place where they will be most effective. If you’ve ever sat underneath a pergola that’s casting shade away from the sitting area, you will understand the importance of getting this right.

4. What plants can I grow on a rooftop?

Plants provide you with an escape from the surrounding urban environment, but you will need to choose hardy varieties. Plants suited to the sunny, windy conditions include:

  • Cypress varieties

  •  Indian hawthorn 'snow maiden’ and ‘oriental pearl'

  • Crassula varieties

  • Kalanchoe varieties

  • Westringias

  • Dragon trees

  • Aloe trees

  • Succulents

Cypress are ideal for using as a hedge to offer protection from the wind, while the remaining plants are suited to large pots, planters or a garden bed.

In this rooftop, raised garden beds have been planted with hardy plants and trees that are used for privacy and a supplementary source of shade. 

Image via Dezeen. Photography Ross Honeysett

Image via Dezeen. Photography Ross Honeysett

5. Am I able to have a garden bed?

Yes, it is possible to grow your own garden in the sky! If you want grow your plants in a raised garden bed rather than pots, you will need to ensure that you have the right drainage in place and choose well-draining soil.

Where you place your garden is also important. If it isn’t sheltered in some way from the elements, choose hardy plants varieties.

6. How can I grow my own herbs and vegetables?

There are a number of ways you can turn your rooftop into a kitchen garden. You can build a raised garden or grow produce in pots or planters. Edibles require protection from the elements, so you will need to position them near some form of shelter. If you are using planters to grow your produce, a good idea is to put them on wheels so you can move them around.

This structure acts as a windbreak and source of shelter for the plants. Image via Pinterest.

7. How can I improve the aesthetic of a tiled or waterproof membrane floor?

The reality of creating a rooftop garden is that you will need to use industrial materials for waterproofing, but that doesn’t mean you need to live with this look. Use an outdoor rug as a simple way add personality or place floating deck platforms over the tiles.

8. I don’t want to carry cushions and other items back and forth between my home and the rooftop. What’s a solution for this?

To ensure you get maximum use from your rooftop garden, it’s a good idea to eliminate any barriers that will prevent you from heading outdoors, such as the issue of where to keep your outdoor items. The simplest soΩlution for this is to build bench seating into your space with storage underneath. That way you can keep items like cushions, barbecue tools and insect spray in one spot.

Bench seating is a great solution for a rooftop, as it’s durable and doesn’t take up as much space as individual chairs or an outdoor lounge.

9. What safety considerations do I need to make?

The primary safety consideration for a rooftop garden is its balustrades. If you want to make the most of your view, use glass balustrades to ensure the space still feels open. High balustrades also have a secondary benefit of protecting your plants from the wind. Check with your local council for guidelines on the legal height of balustrades in your state.

Discover more small-space garden design ideas by downloading your copy of Small Spaces, Big Ideas.

URBAN GREENING TRENDS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Urban greening is taking hold around the world, infusing cities with lush pockets of greenery. From sky gardens to vertical urban farms, designers are becoming increasingly creative as they seek to restore the balance of city living.

Globally, we are seeing a number of exciting responses to the challenge of integrating nature into the built environment. The innovative green spaces appearing in some of the world’s largest cities show us what’s possible for creating a future where urban hubs are not only more sustainable, but also designed to improve the wellbeing of residents.

Here are five urban greening trends emerging around the world.

1. Sky gardens

Seoul Skygarden – image via designboom, photography by Ossip van Duivenbode.

Seoul Skygarden – image via designboom, photography by Ossip van Duivenbode.

New York’s High Line may be the most famous example of a sky garden, but around the world there are a number of instances where urban spaces have been transformed into green public spaces. In Osaka, the Namba Parks shopping complex has an eight-level rooftop garden complete with waterfalls, ponds and a vegetable garden. And most recently, Seoul has opened its own Skygarden on an abandoned overpass, introducing 24,000 new plants to the cityscape.

2. Underground gardening

Image via ArchDaily

Image via ArchDaily

From sky gardens to those hidden underground, New York is destined to have the world’s first underground park when the Lowline opens in 2020. The underground garden looks at how we can use technology to make cities more liveable and will use a specially designed remote skylight to allow plants to grow underground. Similar to the High Line project, it will rejuvenate an unused space – this time, it’s a historic trolley terminal. If you are planning to visit New York, you can get a taste of what’s in store at the Lowline Lab, which is set up in an old warehouse.

3. Vertical farming

Image via Sasaki

Image via Sasaki

In countries like China, the availability of productive agricultural land is decreasing, leaving only way to go – up. The Sunqiao Shanghai precinct will be a 250-acre agricultural district with hydroponic vertical farms for growing produce. Small-scale agriculture is China’s primary farming method and this new development explores how this model can be replicated in an urban context. The precinct will also include walking trails, public plazas, a science museum and a digital amphitheatre.

4. Biophilic design

Image via Dezeen

Image via Dezeen

While biophilic design isn’t a new idea, it’s now becoming more ingrained in the way architects are designing homes. Houses wrapped around internal courtyards – like this one in Singapore – are a primary example of the ways that homes are being integrated with nature. These types of solutions are a smart response to the challenge of urban density, where large backyards are not always possible. At this family home, Chang Architects have integrated a rooftop garden and an impressive internal courtyard into its design.

5. Large-scale vertical gardening  

Image via Via Verde

Image via Via Verde

Where China is embracing vertical gardening for food production, Mexico is using it to fight pollution. In Mexico City, large vertical gardens have been installed on hundreds of motorway pillars to help clean the air. The gardens have also been found to reduce the stress levels of motorists and absorb traffic noise, and they’re also beautifying the city. They are part of a citizen-led intiative called Via Verde Project, which was established to address the city’s rising pollution levels.

Get inspired to green your own urban space with our free ebook, Small Spaces, Big Ideas.   

THE TOP 10 INDOOR PLANTS

Plants instantly rejuvenate an indoor space. And provided you find the right spot for your indoor plants and resist the temptation to over water them, they are relatively easy to grow.

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When it comes to growing indoor plants, there are two main tricks for success:

  1. Choose plants that are suitable for indoor environments

  2. Find the right position for each plant 

There are a variety of indoor plants, with some being easier to care for than others. In the guide below, we have included a number of low-maintenance plants that will be happy enough with minimal water and light. For the best chance of growing success, take note of the different spaces in your home, their aspect and the amount of light they receive each day. Then when you visit your local nursery, look for plants that suit the lighting conditions.

As you read this guide, you will notice that many of the plants have large, glossy leaves. That’s because plants suited to indoor conditions are typically found in shaded tropical environments. Flowering plants need plenty of sun, so it’s uncommon to find houseplants that produce flowers – and those that do are likely to flower less frequently or not at all.

From hanging plants with delicate leaves to those with large foliage and eye-catching geometric shapes, these ten indoor plants will suit any number of decorating schemes. 


OUR GIFT TO YOU >

Download your FREE A3 printable guide here!

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Want more planting inspiration? Download our complete guide to small space gardening!

SEVEN GARDENS THAT SHOWCASE WHY LANDSCAPING SHOULDN'T BE AN AFTERTHOUGHT

What’s the secret to getting the most out of your landscaping? Start planning early. During a build or renovation, landscaping is often an afterthought, but this limits what you can do with your outdoor space and can also increase the cost of elements such as drainage and fixed structures, which are far easier to install during construction.

When building or renovating your home, there is a lot to think about and it makes sense that you may want to put landscaping on the back-burner. But while there is a lot we can achieve after a build or renovation, you will get the best design results when your landscaping is integrated into your initial planning. By consulting a professional landscaper before finalising your building plans, we can help you realise the full potential of your outdoor area and offer suggestions on how to maximise your use of the space.

Landscape design involves a number of practical considerations that must be accounted for, including:

  • Drainage

  • Access for construction

  • Aspect of the outdoor area

  • Creating flow between indoor and outdoor spaces

The process is often far more complex than you may have anticipated, but with good planning you can achieve outdoor bliss. The nature of these requirements also means that when your landscaping is integrated with the construction process, your budget will go further.

From indoor courtyards to striking entrance gardens and enhanced natural views, these seven spaces show you what’s possible when you plan your indoor and outdoor spaces in unison. 

1. Form and function

Concrete House by Auhaus Architecture. Image via desire to inspire.

Concrete House by Auhaus Architecture. Image via desire to inspire.

Every garden has requirements such as drainage, soil quality and access to taps and power points. It is far easier to have these issues addressed during construction rather than calling in tradespeople again when you are ready to install your outdoor area. This is especially important in small spaces such as this one, where restricted access can be a costly challenge to address after a building project is complete.

2. Indoor/outdoor connection

Image via Decorfacil

Image via Decorfacil

Integrated indoor/outdoor living is a great way to enjoy your leisure time at home and fully reap the benefits of increased contact with nature. To achieve a space such as this, planning must be done before construction, as courtyards can pose the greatest logistical challenges in terms of access (especially if you are planning a feature such as the plunge pool pictured above).

In this space, the indoor area integrates seamlessly with the outdoor space, with details such as level flooring, material selection and the open kitchen all adding to the cohesive flow between the two spaces. At the planning stage, order materials for indoor and outdoor spaces at the same time. This is cheaper and will ensure there are no discrepancies in colour and patterning, as your materials such as tiles will be coming from the same batch.

3. Natural lighting and views

Image via archiproducts

Image via archiproducts

This home is a clever example of what can be achieved even when outdoor space is limited. By planning the vertical garden at the same time as the rest of the home, the designers were able to integrate floor-to-ceiling windows into the kitchen to maximise natural light and provide an eye-catching view out to the garden. So even though the overall outdoor area is limited, the occupants are still making the most of the space. On a practical level, allowing more natural light into the home will reduce the lighting costs for the home, while vertical gardens such as this one are great for absorbing noise from the city or neighbours.

4. Rooftop gardens

Image and design by Marco Carini

Image and design by Marco Carini

A habitable rooftop garden or green roof needs to be designed in the planning stage of a build or renovation, as these spaces have a number of extra considerations including structural support and waterproofing. You will also need to understand how much weight your rooftop can accommodate and if your plans need to be submitted to council, it is easiest to have this done at the same time as the rest of your building approvals. 

5. Internal courtyards

Image and design by William Dangar

Image and design by William Dangar

Have you considered an internal courtyard? When outdoor space is limited, an internal courtyard becomes a relaxing central living hub. They are also an ideal solution for allowing more natural light into your home and increasing your exposure to nature. To get the planning of an internal courtyard right, you need to consider any overhead voids, planting and drainage. These spaces add value and impact, and can also make your home more energy efficient by allowing more natural light inside. 

6. Entrance gardens

This striking entrance is a great example of a challenging outdoor space. Not only do entrance gardens have practical elements such as driveways and paths that need to be considered, but this landscape design also had to overcome the challenges of an uneven site. When a space needs to be built up, it’s not always possible to incorporate a lot of greenery and this home is a great example of alternatives such as water features, which still foster a sense of connection with the outdoors.

7. Plunge pools and water features

Image via My Pool Guide

Image via My Pool Guide

Even in a small space, it is possible to enjoy your own private pool. Accessing small spaces to install a plunge pool and the necessary drainage can be difficult and should be planned prior to construction. In this space, the pool has been cleverly raised, which limits excavation costs and makes installation easier. Similar considerations should be made for ponds or large water features.

Explore 45 pages of garden design ideas by downloading your free ebook, Small Spaces, Big Ideas.

We believe in giving credit where credit is due, so if at any time you see work that is improperly recognised, please send us a quick note & we’ll gladly update the information. Thanks for inspiring us!

HOW TO DESIGN AN OFFICE THAT IMPROVES STAFF HAPPINESS

The way we work is changing and, in response, so too is office design. As employees start seeking meaningful work and employers begin to focus on metrics like staff wellbeing and job satisfaction, we are seeing workplace design become more considered and inviting. 

The average Australian puts in almost 41 hours of work each week. That’s a substantial amount of time, so it makes sense that the design of an office will affect whether an employee wants to work for an organisation. In the report The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, a third of respondents said that office design affects their decision when accepting or declining a job. For many people, a well-designed office is not only a pleasant space to work, it also assures them that the organisation cares about its staff. 

So how can you make your workplace more conducive to staff happiness and productivity? One way is through biophilic design – a principle of integrating natural elements into the built environment. Research compiled in The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace found that the calming presence of elements such as plants, natural materials and sunlight helps employees to better cope with stress and pressure, in turn improving their productivity. 

The report found that plants and other natural elements had the following impacts on staff: 

  • Creativity improves by 15% 

  • Productivity increases by 6%

  • Wellbeing is reported to increase by 15%

To show you ways to introduce more greenery into your office, we have put together ideas from inspiring workplaces around the world. 

Install a green wall

Image via Inhabitat

Image via Inhabitat

At Airbnb’s head office in San Francisco, an impressive 1,226 sq ft green wall has been installed in the main atrium, creating a living piece of art. The green wall scales three floors of the office, while the design of the atrium allows natural light to filter in. The sets a calming tone as staff and visitors enter the office and the green wall can be viewed from many of the workspaces and meeting rooms within the building. 

Related reading: Vertical gardening – the ultimate spacesaver

Add potted plants to the office

Image via designboom, photography by Toshikyuki Yano and Michael Feather

Image via designboom, photography by Toshikyuki Yano and Michael Feather

One of the simplest ways to introduce greenery to an office is using potted plants. In Tokyo, the office of tech company LivePerson cleverly uses plants as a way to break up the space. The office is located in a single room and rather than building walls or dividers, the company allows its staff to arrange the office as they please. All of the furniture and plants can be easily moved, which gives the organisation greater flexibility to rearrange the office as the team grows. 

 

Use natural colours and materials  

Image via Breathe Architecture, photography by Peter Clarke

Image via Breathe Architecture, photography by Peter Clarke

When international tech company Slack set up its new Melbourne office, they called upon Breathe Architecture to create an inviting workspace. The abundance of plants adds a sense of serenity to the space, which is complemented by a green and grey colour palette and the use of natural materialssuch as recycled timber. The effect is incredibly calming, with employees reporting that the workspace has a Zen feel to it. To ensure that the effects of the design are not disturbed, employees are required to take phone calls in meeting rooms, rather than at their desks in the open-plan work area. 

 

Embrace natural vistas

Image via Inhabitat, photography by Iwan Baan

Image via Inhabitat, photography by Iwan Baan

If your office has a view out to trees, parks, water or another natural setting, make this a focal point of its design. In Spain, architecture firm SelgasCano has fully embraced this design idea, building its office in the woods of Madrid. The glass wall takes full advantage of this natural setting, providing views out to the forest floor and allowing sunlight into the office. This design means that artificial lighting isn’t necessary during the day, which reduces the company’s power costs and makes the office more sustainable. 

 

Choose low-maintenance plants 

Image via designboom, photography by Peter Clark

Image via designboom, photography by Peter Clark

When it comes to choosing plants for an office, it’s wise to select hardy indoor plants that can handle the conditions of artificial lighting and ventilation. Birkenstock in Melbourne is a great example of this, where mother-in-law's tongue/snake plant is used throughout its new office. These plants are easy to care for and don’t like too much water, which means less upkeep is necessary. The repetition of this plant creates a calming effect and is a pleasant way to divide each workspace. 

Related reading: Biophilic design at work – why we need greener offices

We believe in giving credit where credit is due, so if at any time you see work that is improperly recognised, please send us a quick note & we’ll gladly update the information. Thanks for inspiring us!