In one of China’s big industrial cities there’s an office block growing organic vegies for lunch on the rooftop.

The 7-story office blocks surround a large artificial lake - WuTong Island

The 7-story office blocks surround a large artificial lake – WuTong Island

WuTong Island is an innovative commercial development in the city of Shenzhen, southern China, right next to Hong Kong. The WuTong Island project consists of 24 office blocks surrounding an artificial lake to collect the storm water, complete with a number of islands. The project aims to have 80% green space including the lake, landscape and rooftop gardens. The developer, Ronald, of Taihua Real Estate (China) Co. Ltd, prides himself as being at the cutting edge of ‘green’ design and his company motto is to ‘bring nature back into the city’.

In 2013 Ronald and several Taihua staff completed the PDC (Permaculture Design Course) that I taught in Fuzhou with Hui-i Chiang and Peter Morehead (from Taiwan) and the following month he brought us to Shenzhen as consultants and to give his employees an introduction to permaculture. During this visit we looked at the WuTong project, which was already in its first phase of construction, and explored ways permaculture could improve the existing plans. The outcome of this initial consultation was a substantial increase in the biodiversity of the 1,800 trees in the landscape, including 20% fruit trees, and a commitment that all rooftops gardens would produce food.

Islands in the lake will have cafe, bookshop and small shops

Islands in the lake will have cafe, bookshop, small shops and social areas. The lake, filled with storm water, is being planted with diverse aquatic plants and will be stocked with fish.

One year later, Oct 2014, I returned to China to teach another PDC, this time hosted by Taihua at the WuTong Island site in Shenzhen. By then the first building was almost ready for occupation, the lake full of water and the first stage of trees planted. The first rooftop had recently had soil spread and a green manure crop of soybeans growing. The PDC design project provided a further opportunity to explore permaculture applications in the landscape and balcony plantings, social strategies and rooftop gardens.

The rooftop Oct 2014 with soybean green manure crop

The rooftop Oct 2014 with soybean green manure crop

I recently received an update on progress and now the Taihua company has moved it’s head office into the WuTong Island building where we did the PDC. From my feedback on the PDC designs, the staff who participated in the course have now developed their final concept plan and are busy implementing it. The rooftop garden is already providing fresh organic vegetables and herbs for staff lunches.

Permaculture design in early stage of implementation on the  Taihua office block building

Permaculture design in early stage of implementation on the Taihua office block building

The rooftop design integrates vegetable and crop production, fruit trees, a banana circle composting system, worm farm, rainwater harvest, ducks, ponds and a social seating area.

Permaculture design for the office rooftop by Taihua staff PDC graduates

Permaculture design for the office rooftop by Taihua staff PDC graduates

Alvin Change writes “We have been working on the rooftop garden for the past few months and finally we have some progress to share with you! Apart from the rooftop garden, we also have planted different tress around the island and they are growing healthy. Last month, Ronald and the rest of the employees have moved our headquarters to WuTong Island.  We can spot many different birds and insects that have moved their home to WuTong Island.  The habitat is growing bigger too.”

I look forward to returning to Shenzhen later this year to teach another PDC in October, seeing the progress first hand, and especially to eating some of the produce fresh from the rooftop.

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Robyn Francis and Hui-i Chiang teaching in Shenzhen

 

Robyn Francis, international permaculture pioneer, designer, educator and facilitator, has payed a key role in bringing permaculture concepts to parts of South East Asia, Taiwan and China. Her course materials have been translated into Mandarin and she is mentoring several permaculture teachers from Taiwan.

Robyn Francis is based at Djanbung Gardens in northern NSW  and is principal of Permaculture College Australia.