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Sat 20 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Sustaining sustanability

Sustainability may be the latest trend in this region, but in Germany, it has long been integral to landscaping. Victor Kamphausen, general manager of German landscape firm Kamphausen & Kamphausen, gives his views on what the buzz really means for the GCC.

Sustainability may be the latest trend in this region, but in Germany, it has long been integral to landscaping. Victor Kamphausen, general manager of German landscape firm Kamphausen & Kamphausen, gives his views on what the buzz really means for the GCC.

How are sustainability practices in Germany different from those in this region?

For us, it is a normal procedure to work in this field. It is normal to think about water consumption, electricity, what kind of materials you can use, what you will do with the storm water, and all these issues. Here only now people are trying to think about this. It is never too late but it is very late especially for such a big city as Dubai.

What are the most important things that need to change for landscaping to become more sustainable in this region in your view?

I think that before we execute something we have to think about the system or the design and we have to convince people that landscaping doesn't always have to be green. Landscaping could also work with the typical plantation that is here in this region.

How much is sustainability the responsibility of the landscape architect?

It is a combination of all the designers together. I think we have to work altogether on this issue. For example, on a hotel project we try to work with the architects for extensive greening on the roof so is not only a landscape design issue but also an architectural issue.

Do you think there is enough clarity on sustainability in this region? Do people understand what it means?

I think it takes some time to explain it to people. It is not that someone decides now there is a sustainability system and that everyone knows what it is. People have heard of it and they are interested in it, but you cannot [make it that] from today or tomorrow everybody knows about it. It needs a period of maybe 10 years for everybody to know about it.

Green roofs are one aspect of sustainability that is starting to catch on in the region. How common are green roofs in Germany?

In almost every building, commercial and residential, they are used. In Germany, if you are building a house, you have to provide the authorities with a plan. If you are building, for example, 500m
2of house you need another 1,500m
2of free area, so some people that want to build 500m
2and have only property of 1,000m
2of land try to implement roof greening because this is also [open space]. Green roofs are also beneficial for the environment.

Can roof greening work in this region in your view?

In this region, they can work by protecting the roof because the sun is not shining directly on the roof and you get a cooling or warming effect. Greening helps to minimise the heat islands because also if the sun is shining to the wall, there is a lot of heat so if there is a greening it will help to minimise all this.

But it will take a long time to convince people of such things, because at the moment they are thinking it will only cost us money and it will not give us any benefits. I think it is our job as designers to convince people of the sense of such a system.

Do you think guidelines will make a difference in helping to promote more sustainable design in the region?

It will help but it is only the first step. Also these guidelines must be developed, like the LEED system, which was introduced a long time ago in the US but which has always been developed. The fact that there are so many systems is also a problem.

There is not one system that will be the guideline for all of us. There will be one area where you can take the lead and another area where you will consider another system so sometimes you've got the problem that they are conflicting.

Do you think guidelines are enough or are regulations needed?

I think this is also a point that you cannot implement from today or tomorrow. It will take a long time to implement all this. I think the guidelines will show us the future. I think we have to start now and then improve all the guidelines and then after a while we will have one catalogue that is mandatory for all areas, and that we can use.

In Germany, we have very strong regulations that specify what you can do, and what you cannot do. For example, if you want to cut a tree down, you need to have permission. There are a lot of regulations in Germany, maybe too many. But somewhere between there must be a system.

How important do you think it is to have regulations adapted to specific countries?

You cannot use a German system in the UAE because we have a complete different vegetation as well as climate.

Water requirements, for example, are very different. In public areas in Germany, we don't have any irrigation systems so the soil will hold the water for a long time in comparison to here.

What I see here as a problem is that the water at the moment is not very expensive but I think it will change in the future because more people are coming and the water requirements are rising so I think we have to think about these issues and explain to people that they have to save water and electricity and we can only succeed in this if everybody is doing something.

How important is it for water consumption to be considered at the design stage?

This is a main issue. Throughout our design not only after we get client approval, we are also making calculations for water consumption. We try to explain this to our clients from the beginning.

The typical idea here is to have a lot of green areas; we are thinking in the future of alternatives, for example of working with desert plantation, working with different systems to reduce water. I also recommend using sweet soil materials that we can mix with the soil and which can reduce the water consumption a lot.

Kamphausen & Kamphausen has offices in Wiesbaden, Germany and Dubai.

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