Archive for April, 2013

Maya Ubud A

Maya Ubud, a Five-Leaf System member in Bali, nestled between the Petanu River valley and the verdant rice fields of Peliatan, has used landscaping as an award winning trampoline to fame.

The Five-Leaf System award was the 44th award this resort and spa has collected in the last decade, and much of its charm and success come from the way its management has cared for the environment – and this has best been reflected in their grounds.

Maya Ubud has managed to protect and further enhance the locale’s natural beauty by modelling the existing land lines to take in their single cabins housing over 100 rooms and still make guests feel that privacy and seclusion are paramount.

Only 20% of the resort’s 10 hectares of land area were built on for accommodation.

Changes in level were turned into great theatrical effect and three essential landscaping elements – water, plants and movement – were brought together in novel ways, allying beauty, safety and comfort to the enjoyment of its guests.


Within a period of three years, over three hectares of land in the river valley were planted with 140 indigenous trees and shrubs, furthering the environmental protection of Bali.

Their management use recycling of waste water from the sewage treatment plant for irrigation water; bio-degradable products and cleaning supplies in laundry, stewarding and housekeeping; and they dispose of all corrosive materials through authorized collection agencies.

They also use energy efficient bulbs, including LED; separate rubbish into food waste, paper, plastic and tin foil; encourage email to distribute memos and other information for internal distribution thus reducing paper usage; and select environmentally friendly suppliers and products.

Photos in this article are from Maya Ubud’s official site and for more information on their environmental policy, see  “Sustainability Management Plan” at

By Silvia Pelham

A single plant can be enough to give you a restful sleep. It’s called Andrea and was invented three years ago.  With a Best Invention Award, popular Science in the USA and a permanent collection exhibit of Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, you can now take one home with you.

Manmade modern materials used in interior decorating can emanate obnoxious substances, which, invisible to our sight, hang in the air we breathe in our rooms.

So tells us NASA, upon conferring a high level of toxic volatile compounds in astronauts’ body tissues, resulting from close contact with the plastic, fibreglass, insulating materials and fire retardants that space crafts are built of.

But so are our hotel rooms!

Mathieu LeHanneur has pictured these toxic compounds in his video as moving, menacing waves which live within the four walls of our room and to top it all, has them joined by others of similar ilk, pouring in from the polluted external city air through our opened windows.

With David Edwards from Harvard University, Mathieu devised Andrea, a living air filter made of three elements – a plant, a container and a ventilator – with a filter which allows a one-pot plant to produce enough oxygen in the window sill in your bedroom.



Andrea’s leaves and roots produce enough oxygen which gets poured in and circulated into the room while fiercely fighting whatever hangs there, thus granting you a good night’s sleep…

By Silvia Pelham

It has always been a mystery how Egyptians lit their deeply buried tombs. Modern man is using plants to bring light underground.

Mirrors have always been the easiest method to bring reflected light underground, either by placing them along a vertical shaft to light the lower levels or by installing them horizontally, at differing angles in false ceilings, drawing light from facades to the depths of wide buildings.

The Japanese are known as the forerunners of this lighting technique, allowing the use of unoccupied underground car parking flooring in high rise buildings to turn into urban crop raising areas of rice and vegetables.



The Himawari Company started developing a more refined technique of capturing daylight in 1978 and 30 years later are able to convert it to U.V. free natural daylight.

All you need is:

• a collector which tracks the sun and collects sunlight
• optical fibre cable to transmit the sunlight and
• a light-fitting!

From a mono-lens automatic sunlight collection transmission system in the early days, Himawari collectors grew to the size of 198 lenses and can now bring natural daylight to north-facing areas, internal bathrooms in windowless rooms and basements.

Better still, as sunlight is obtained directly from the sun, one can feel the natural changes of the sun’s hues throughout the day and as it only contains a small amount of infrared radiation (thermal rays), it hardly interferes with room temperature or air conditioning systems.

Hotels in urban areas might consider installing their spas on underground floors knowing that they can be bathed by natural daylight suitable even for sunbathing and appropriate for the young and elderly alike.


Source: roof collectors from Himawari –

Plants have also been the subject of the latest urban landscaping project – an Arup-Raad partnership – which had it first public viewing last autumn in New York, and used the capture of daylight in a similar fashion.

A solar canopy – a silver dome which stands over greenery at ground level and draws light into it – linked by helium tubes to solar collector dishes, channel and distribute sunrays brought by fibre optic cabling underground.

The idea was to use a vaulted underground warehouse abandoned for sixty years on Lower East Side for Essex and Broome steet, still showing cobbled stones and criss-crossed by rail tracks, and turn it into the first underground urban park in the world – and judging from the projected tendency of urban settling versus rural living in the years to come, it may prove to be the first of many.

Raad Studio with Ove Arup

Source:  Raad Studio with Ove Arup – LowLine exhibit – September 2012 in New York.

By Silvia Pelham