Planting The Seeds For An Earth-Conscious Generation

Canossaville Children’s Home in Singapore gets a green makeover

Issue: Apr 2010

Volunteers from CapitaLand sharing with the children from the Canossaville Children’s Home about Earth Hour after their tour of the new green features fitted in the home by CapitaLand staff
Volunteers from CapitaLand sharing with the children from the Canossaville Children’s Home about Earth Hour after their tour of the new green features fitted in the home by CapitaLand staff.

The courtyard of the Canossaville Children’s Home in Singapore appears empty but wafting down from a second level open balcony is the excited chatter of children. Follow their eager voices and you will find yourself in a mini Eden complete with over 50 local trees and shrubs where just a week or so ago, there was nothing but grey concrete.

“It was amazing to see the faces of the children light up as they came by the garden and saw what we were doing there,” said Tan Dor Win, a design manager with CapitaMalls Asia Limited who volunteered to be part of the team from CapitaLand responsible for helping to make the home more green.

CapitaLand has long had a commitment to environmental sustainability and has made a concerted effort to combine its green initiatives with its philanthropic activities focused on underprivileged children. This project to help make Canossaville Children’s Home more environmentally friendly not only improves the basic living conditions for the underprivileged children but also educates the young to take care of Mother Earth. Funds for the renovation of this home were raised by Earth Hour 2010 supporters, members of the public, who pledged to turn off the lights for one hour on 27 March at the CapitaLand Earth Hour website, www.capitaland.com/earthhour. For every pledge received, CapitaLand Hope Foundation, the philanthropic arm of CapitaLand donated S$1 for the renovation works of this children’s home.

Greening the Grounds

The idea to create a garden in the balcony came to Tan during a visit to the home.

“We were looking for a way to enhance the physical environment of the place and make it more green but it could not be too costly, or disrupt the activities in the home. It also had to have some educational value,” said Tan.

“The challenge was that we couldn’t knock anything down or build any major structures. Renovation had to be kept minimal.”

The rooftop terrace presented a perfect place for his plans. A garden there would transform the disused area into a playground for the children. The plants would create a cool refuge and reduce the ambient temperature of the surrounding environment. For example, the dining area located below will be shielded from the direct rays of the sun. As a bonus, the garden would provide a learning point for the children to be educated about the local flora, the environment and its care.

Tan Dor Win educating the budding gardeners on how to care for the plants at the new garden
Tan Dor Win educating the budding gardeners on how to care for the plants at the new garden.

Tan worked with a landscape architect to pick plants that were hardy yet pleasing to the eye, not poisonous or harmful to children in any way and indigenous to Singapore. He ended up with eight different types of plants in all.

To make this activity more meaningful, CapitaLand staff volunteers spent a day carrying 50 odd pots of plants upon their arrival at the home up to the balcony and arranged the plants under the guidance of the landscape architect.

“Before we left, we taught the people at the home how to care for the plants, how to water and fertilize them and how these plants grow,” said Tan.

And the home intends to make sure the children become intimately involved with the care of the garden.

“We hope to rotate the children to be gardeners to take care of the plants,” said Sister Jennifer who is in charge of the home and the over 80 children there.

Lighting the Way

Classrooms are now brighter with the replacement of the existing light tubes with energy-saving ones that can save up to 20% of electricity bills
Classrooms are now brighter with the replacement of the existing light tubes with energy-saving ones that can save up to 20% of electricity bills.

Another improvement the CapitaLand volunteers made to the home was to change all the existing lights in the classrooms, sleeping quarters, dining hall and corridors to energy efficient ones. But building manager of Capital Tower, Ong Soon Ann, saw more that he could do to help the home conserve energy.

“Although they had a lot of fans there, the children still complained that it was stuffy at night because they had to close all the doors and windows because of the mosquitoes,” said Ong.

He came up with a plan to reposition the wall fans in the sleeping quarter to improve airflow and ventilation. New fans were ordered because the old ones were less energy efficient and new cables and trunking were run to mount the fans.

“I have never enjoyed myself that much. I learnt that by doing so little I could make a group of children so happy,” noted Ong

Harnessing Nature

To cap off the project, Senior Manager of Design and Development at CapitaLand Commercial Limited, Alfred Lim, had a two-cubic metre rainwater collection tank made for the home.

Children at the home learning about recycling from the CapitaLand volunteers
Children at the home learning about recycling from the CapitaLand volunteers.

“I noticed that the rainwater collected from the roof was being drained off onto a particular spot in the garden. It was such a waste,” said Lim. “I thought why not collect the water and use it to water the plants in the garden?”

Lim had the tank specially made by APP Engineering who also sponsored the rainwater collection system. The tank can hold enough to water the grounds for three days. Lim also installed water thimbles in the toilets and dining hall to reduce water flow of the taps.

“I believe in inculcating green habits as early as possible. It’s good to see the children so excited about recycling water,” said Lim.

Saving water, saving energy, saving the Earth – the children at Canossaville Children’s Home certainly has a head start in green living.

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