Main image: Ellipse Waterfall

We spoke to Stuart Glen, Director of GREENinc Landscape Architecture, to get his thoughts on trends, design ideas and some interesting projects that they are working on.

What’s your take on the trends that you are seeing in terms of green scaping and hardscaping?

In hardscaping, large format precast pavers, different clay pavers in various shapes and colours, even squares and long shapes, as well as black clay pavers are very on-trend. Black is easy on the eye and black pavers reflect less glare but must preferably be shaded as they heat up much more and contribute to the urban heat island effect.

Do you see a dramatic change in landscaping in recent years?

Wild grasses and indigenous plants are very popular as people are planting more for ecology: to encourage wildlife and to create wildlife habitats.

What project do you love?

A ground-breaking project was the Innovation Hub in Botswana. It has an extensive green roof which has various benefits such as insulation, reducing stormwater runoff, creating wildlife habitat and of course it is beautiful. It was also an interesting experience to work with American architects SHoP on this specific project.

In terms of green roofs, are you seeing a proliferation of green roofs now?

We are not seeing that many green roofs like the one at the Innovation Hub, but a lot of our work is on slab, whether on building roofs or underground parking basements. These spaces are a kind of accessible green roof and add usable space and amenities to city projects.

Any new products that you like?

I quite like the idea of epoxy bonded aggregates that form permeable paving. This allows storm water to permeate into the ground as opposed to having to be piped off site. This product is useful for use in tree openings that you need to keep trafficable while still allowing oxygen and water to reach the tree’s roots. It also has nice big openings that resist clogging up with silt, something that can happen to pre-cast permeable pavers. I also like the cleaner look of non-modular paving. Polished concrete, or rather honed concrete – it’s not polished to the same degree as it is when used indoors to ensure it’s non-slip – is another non-modular favourite.

Polished concrete at Umhlanga Gateway

Another product I like using is polyethylene lawn protector or gravel stabiliser. It’s a hexagonal plastic form, almost like a honeycomb, that allows vehicles to drive over lawn without damaging it and keeps gravel in place. I like to use gravel, ungraded sand or decomposed granite and even bark or wood chips as alternatives to paving. These are all permeable, create a softer look and are more economical than paving. If I have a limited budget (which is always!) I would rather specify a higher-quality paver over a smaller area than install more cheap paving. 

Are we seeing a more conscious design for accessibility, inclusivity and mobility?

Definitely! Projects have to be accessible to everyone, ramps are preferred to stairs and we are seeing more tactile paving in South Africa.

Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS)

Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS) are also becoming more popular in the country. They aim to reduce the amount of storm water that runs or has to be piped off a site. With cities densifying, more pressure is being put on our aging infrastructure, and municipal regulations increasingly require that storm water is dealt with on site. We spoke about permeable paving earlier, another way to encourage rainwater falling on paved areas to soak into the ground is to divert it from the paving into bioswales.

Are you seeing more recreational areas in commercial developments?

We are working on a project where the developer receives rates rebates for developing private open space. The rebate applies if he provides a certain number of square metres of private open space on the property per unit that he sells. Thus, we are seeing some interesting mechanisms that municipalities are using to encourage that.

A word of advice for Architects and developers?

Get a landscape architect on board early on! There is an ever increasing focus on outdoor space and public spaces especially. A landscape architect can help make the most of these spaces.

Do you have a favourite project? Well, if we’re talking about flooring, I have to mention Ellipse Waterfall, where we mixed large-format precast concrete pavers from Bosun in different colours and textures. A mix of lighter and darker greys is also trending.

For more information, contact GREENinc:
Tel: +27 82 5699 480

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