Property / Construction

Alive and shopping

by Mayse Lam

Irene So, general manager
retail marketing and promotions
Thomas Lau, assistant general manager
landscape architecture development
Sino Group
Photo: Edde Ngan

Environmentally friendly emporium offers sylvan shopping experience

Although a long established way of life, as people become more environmentally conscious, they demand differently from their shopping sprees. Having anticipated the trend and balanced it with demand and expectations, Sino Group offers Hong Kong's shopping population a fresh retail experience.

With a 40,000 square foot piazza and a unique 35-foot high by 300-foot wide vertical garden, Citywalk will provide visitors with the ultimate shopping experience in Hong Kong.

The garden is a true combination of scientific insights from horticultural, engineering and environmental professionals, says Thomas Lau, assistant general manager of the landscape architecture development division, Sino Group.

Mr Lau notes that planning for the vertical garden began in early 2006. "Upon receipt of the request for a 3000,000 square foot shopping centre to be built in Tsuen Wan, we began brainstorming for a theme. After a comprehensive range of studies and market research, we decided to add a touch of nature to Citywalk," he points out. For this reason, the entire shopping centre revolves around an environmentally friendly concept with the vertical garden the key feature.

Conceptual functionality

Being such an innovative idea, the vertical garden is obviously the heart of Citywalk. "For example, the gigantic wall we have in place is not the conventional concrete or glass facade typical of shopping centres around Hong Kong. It is a 'living wall' serving various purposes. Naturally, the wall offers a scenic backdrop for shoppers to enjoy," Mr Lau says. "It comprises three main components — a base structural frame, an automatic irrigation system and green panels. Each plays a different, yet essential role in the garden's structure."

The base structural frame is the skeleton of the entire framework while the irrigation system has a self-regulated timing device providing the correct volume of water at the appropriate time. This controls the entire automatic irrigation system. Lastly, the green panel system holds the plants and soil base together. With the distinctive design of this system, individual green panels can be easily removed from the garden and decorations can be conveniently erected, explains Mr Lau.

After intensive research, experimentation, mock trials and alternations, Mr Lau and his team successfully created the vertical garden tailored to meet the original objective of a natural indoor environment. He says, "The living wall plays four significant roles: temperature reduction, acoustic control, air purification and energy efficiency. Seven specifically chosen flora types improve air quality, reduce indoor temperature and filter excess noise from outside. As a result, the internal atmosphere is healthy, aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sound."

Japanese influence

Citywalk boasts additional features rarely found in Hong Kong. "Another major appeal of our shopping centre is that many tenants in Citywalk are from Japan," explains Irene So, general manager of retail marketing and promotions of Sino Group. "Our goal is to provide a comfortable shopping experience similar to that in Japan, where individuals not only shop, but also take the time to relax and enjoy all the things a natural environment has to offer. We are promoting and encouraging an alternative and healthier lifestyle."

Besides the unique ambience, there will be a series of promotional events held in Citywalk to allure visitors. These include a "Tree of Love" campaign to celebrate Christmas and encourage a greener outlook. "The tree is not just any typical Christmas tree, but one made from recyclable decorations and ornaments that are expected to last for the coming four years. Throughout the year, we will continue to hold a wide variety of events such as acrobat performances, charity activities, an aviation exhibition sponsored by the Hong Kong Aviation Club and a paper-cutting artistic performance by a famous artist from China," says Ms So.

Throughout the construction period many challenges were overcome. From planning the entire infrastructure to choosing appropriate plants requiring minimum maintenance and designing a suitable watering system, all the difficulties called for innovation, creativity, persistence, dedication and a great sense of team spirit.

"These were just the beginning. The real challenge is how to maintain the garden, ensuring all plants grow healthily and continue to fulfil their environmentally friendly roles in years to come," Mr Lau notes. "However, Sino Group will make every effort to succeed, believing in the responsibility we owe not only to society, but also to future generations. Healthy living should feature in everybody's lifestyle and we should begin today."


Taken from Career Times 14 December 2007
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