Ecological plant design and biodiverse green roof of the Green House office building in Budapest

Péter István BALOGH, Ákos BEDE-FAZEKAS, Péter DEZSÉNYI

(From previous issue No.30)

There is a new office-building-garden in Budapest where beside the traditional landscape architectural elements a significant emphasis was put on an ecologically informed plant application and a bio-diverse green roof was built instead of the well-known homogeneous Sedum green roof. Beside the open-mindedness of the real estate developing company the designers were also aided by the international assessment system that beyond many other aspects also assesses the environment of buildings and awards environmentally friendly solutions with high scores and prestigious awards.

3D visualisation of the garden of Green House

3D visualisation of the garden of Green House

In our paper we will examine the international assessment systems for "green architecture" and then we will present the fundamental concept of the Green House's garden as well as its plant application.

Assessment systems in environmentally conscious architecture

The BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) comes from Great Britain, its elaboration has been started in the beginning of the nineties. The method initially used exclusively on the territory of the island nation has now become available and applied worldwide and turned into a market leading environmental assessment method. The BREEAM assessment for new buildings consists of two main parts: the assessment during planning and the assessment after the completion of construction works.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) assessment system has been introduced by the U.S. Green Building Council at the end of the nineties. The assessment is carried out on the basis of five aspects: location and site selection, water use, energy consumption and atmosphere, material usage and resources, the quality of the interior environment.

The German environmentally conscious building assessment system (DGNB) has been launched relatively late, in 2009. The difference of the DGNB's approach to the two Anglo-Saxon systems is that it puts the same emphasis on environmental, economic and social sustainability requirements while criteria related to the buildings' lifecycle also play an important role. The six fields considered during the assessment: ecology, economy, socio-cultural and functional quality, technological quality, process and site quality.

Assessment systems based on environmental consciousness will probably spread in the future; in the European Union the building assessment for state investments (schools, hospitals, etc.) might become a basic requirement - as it is already the practice in the United Kingdom. And also the market demand calls for more sustainable solutions, for cheaper and environmentally friendly operation. Investors and developers can demonstrate their compliance with these demands by obtaining the assessment "environmentally conscious building".
Many office buildings in Budapest have already obtained the "environmentally conscious" assessment. Among others, the Váci Greens business center has received a "very good" BREEAM assessment, the office building on Eiffel Square and the Gateway Office Building have received an "excellent" BREEAM assessment. The Infopark E building has received a LEED assessment while a LEED "Platinum" was awarded to the Népliget Center Office Building.

The Green House and the LEED

The Green House office building is located Budapest, in the renewing district of Angyalföld, in closest proximity of the Lehel square market hall. Its developer is
the Swedish-owned Skanska Hungary, which has been present in Hungary since 1987 as one of the determining representatives of quality real estate  development. The architectural design has been carried out by the Swedish White Architects and the Hungarian DPi Design Kft. The landscape architectural plans have been delivered by s73 Kft. The design and execution of the green roofs' plant material - along with the garden - was performed by Deep Forest Kft.
The planning process - simultaneously with the LEED assessment process - started in 2010; the designing landscape architects have participated in the work from the very beginning and elaborated the landscape architectural concept bearing in mind the recommendations of the LEED scoring guidelines on gardens and green spaces. This way they have taken into account the Sustainable Site chapter's requirements on environmental quality (air- and light pollution), rainwater retention as well as heat island effect reduction and ornamental plant selection. In the meanwhile the architectural designers and the designer team led by a qualified LEED expert was successfully striving "on all fronts" to reach maximum scores in the field of structure, material usage or engineering solutions as well. The Green House and its garden have been awarded the highest, "Platinum" rating of LEED.
The spreading of the LEED system in Hungary can bring about the appreciation of landscape architectural works attached to buildings also beyond the professional context, since to obtain any of the possible rating categories it is practically indispensable to create a quality landscape contracting plan. A further advantage is that in building-garden ensembles aspiring for a LEED rating, landscape architects have more freedom than usual to experiment with their concepts based on ecological conditions and processes - and this will have a stimulating effect on their other works as well.

Landscape architectural concept

At the beginning of the elaboration of the concept, the Green House theme has led the landscape architectural draft plans in a direction quite close to nature - the entire courtyard of the U shaped building appeared as a "wetland", organized by a dammed creek running in circle and the walkway with plank pavement encompassing it. In the later period - fearing the uncertain maintenance and operational tasks of unusual solutions in Hungary - the concept has taken a more traditional direction: the implemented, final version is characterized by larger lawn areas, more geometrical forms and an ornamental pool, where the new approach is represented by the plant application of the courtyard and the roof gardens.
The garden system created on the main level shows a threefold division. In front of the building's facade on Lőportár street there is a green lane of full value almost all along, the prefabricated retaining wall of varying height connects to the metal pergola structure in the gaps of which five trees are standing. The terrace is made of a composite plank pavement. On the side of Kassák Lajos street a smallelement pavement runs along the facade and then turns to the front of the facade where it fills the area between the facade and the driveway.

The view of the garden from the roof terrace

The view of the garden from the roof terrace

On the courtyard of the building surrounded by its three wings an inner garden was created. The garden is situated around a central circular pattern. Parts of it are: revetment in front of the inner facades (between the facades and the "circle"), in which there are unique concrete planting boxes for creeper plants and "vats" for trees. In the north-eastern corner a "small garden" is formed through the embracement of the pavement. In the middle of the garden, a "floating walkway" of composite pavement, accompanied by short garden lamps runs towards the rear garden area - and divides the garden in two. In the rear garden two open-air meeting and working pavilions join the walkway. On the western side of the garden the "circle" closes as a water pool, with steps for sitting down. A prefabricated steel outdoor pavilion on a concrete structure is attached to the pool with a screen and a water architecture. The complete hydraulic engineering of the water architecture has been situated in the concrete substruction of the outdoor working facility. Between the pool and the plank walkway there is a "reedbed" with waterside plants or wetland indicator plants. On the eastern side of the circular motive there is a lawny grove-like, undulated resting area with screens, sit down facilities and another pavilion. On the slightly undulated lawn area three trees, two artificial shading sails and three special benches appear. The rear garden becomes by its varied plantings and shielded position a nice residing space. The plank walkway coming from the inner garden ties two other outdoor units. Along the fence, intensive cover crops, medium height and tall shrubs as well as grovelike tree planting are characteristic.

/read the rest of this post in issue No.30/

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