Green Building News — 25 June 2012


Cultivating a subculture of green real estate in Cape Town by creating roof gardens on top of city buildings will do more than just introduce city dwellers to greener lives. It will reconnect the City Bowl to its roots, earth and the Camissa River – an “umbilical cord” that binds Table Mountain to the ocean.

Stephen Lamb has a bee in his bonnet. He wants to show cities and the people living in them that plants come from the ground, not supermarkets, that water comes from clouds, not a tap; and that growing your own vegetables is free and simple; you just need to water them daily, like any relationship.

Lamb, the designer of Cape Town’s COP17 stand, is almost poetic when he explains his vision of reuniting city slickers with nature by recruiting more and more building owners and occupants in Cape Town to create off-the-grid roof gardens.

It all started when he studied a City Bowl aerial map, spotted literally rugby fields of “barren, windswept and impersonal” available rooftop space and thought, now here’s an opportunity. “Rooftops seem valuables, because they were designed as afterthoughts to buildings.”

When we meet at the roof garden he hopes will kick-start his green real estate movement, 44 Wale Street, Lamb is slightly out of breath. “Look what I have drawn on the train here,” he says adjusting his fedora and shows me a sketch in ballpoint pen. “This is what I want to paint down the buildings side: roots hanging down from the garden roof: as if it’s been pulled out somewhere and planted here.

Lamb is eager to start the second phase of the 45m2 garden and install its irrigation systems, rainwater harvesting tanks and a small hothouse.

The garden will feature edible, organic vegetables, which could either be consumers or sold, indigenous plants such as succulents, a micro-wetland of ferns and lilies, and some plants propagating from seeds. These will be speices with flowers attracting bees and insects.

The concept is simple. First Lamb created a footprint of the roof surface and raide that with a semi-permanent structure using stainless steel fixings and aliened invasive timber collected on Table Mountain. No bricks or cements were used. The garden’s structure needs to be weatherproofed and inhabitant, fitting snuggly and secure on the rooftop.

Plants are planted in recycled milk creates, lined with biddum, a material that lets through water and retains soil. The garden harvests its own rainwater and through solar panels generates more than enough electricity for small water pressure pumps. Office workers could even charge their laptops and cellphones when using the garden as a chill zone breakfast spots, meeting room or exercise area.

“We need anti-office spaces, where you can walking and kick off your shows, hold your hand under water and wipe your face, pick salad with your hand and eat it. Roof gardens are healing, healthy, relaxing and reclusive space that can connect us with Table Mountain, the sea, sound of seagulls and calls to prayer on Fridays.

Written by: Riana Geldendhuys.

Source: Green Home

Contact Stephen Lamb 083 229 1821,

Cost of gardens are R 10 000 upwards, (The design cost and supply of a 45m2 garden costs R 45 000. It’s irrigation system, rainwater harvesting tanks and maintenance costs another R 40 000) Surface: Not smaller then 3m2. Gardens can also be built vertically.


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