“World trends in the construction of small shopping centres have been moving towards ecology for some time, seeking to minimize invading nature and trying to be more friendly to it. For example, in the Scandinavian countries, part of new local shopping centres is oriented towards the needs of the community, and relationship with nature. In Lithuania, this practice is also taking its first steps”, – said Dr. Aušrys Balevičius, the director of “Senasis ežerėlis”, an environmental and landscaping consultant and designer company.
While sustainability ideas are penetrating more areas of life, environmental experts and ecologists play an increasingly important role in the design of residential and commercial buildings. Such specialists are also part of the “Žali” (“Green”) shopping centre team; they help to listen to environmental needs, and take care of making green spaces more attractive not only for humans, but also for birds or even insects.
The ecologist shared his experiences and described how the “Žali” trade and service centre would fit into the surrounding landscape.
“Before starting this project, we assessed its potential effects on the environment, and conducted botanical and biological research. This helped us to make decisions regarding the measures to be taken in order to preserve valuable natural elements and to help the surrounding vegetation and its inhabitants. Although the area where the new building will be located is not special from a natural perspective, nevertheless birds and animals from the adjacent Verkiai Regional Park come there occasionally. This led to the idea of taming the forest fauna diversity coming to this area”, – said Dr. A. Balevičius.
According to the ecologist, one of the essential conditions for inviting animals closer to the shopping centre is their security. For example, builders must ensure that forest birds will not fly into showcase windows; therefore the windows will be pasted over with the shadow silhouettes of predator birds. The owners of modern houses have been protecting birds in this way for a long time, but we have not yet seen this in Lithuanian shopping centres.
Food is another important reason why birds will fly to “Žali”. “We are going to plant the facades of the building with Virginia creepers. In autumn, their berries ripen and are eagerly picked by birds. These Virginia creeper berries remain on the twigs until December or even January. In addition, Virginia creeper leaves turn a beautiful red in the autumn, so that the entire facade covered with them will change colour”, – said Dr. A. Balevičius.
The food needs of birds will be taken into account even in planting the overall area of the shopping centre. The intention is to plant it with shrubs whose seeds or fruits would attract birds and support them in the winter. Along the future bicycle path, rowan-trees will be planted as their berries remain for quite a long time even in freezing weather, and on the other side of the hedge thujas will grow. A large number of pine trees now growing in the area will be saved, because parrot crossbills and woodpeckers happily shell their cones until spring. In addition, we intend to plant apple trees with small fruit, such as Siebold’s crabapple, whose berries recalling apples are eagerly picked by birds in winter.
We also will take care of our flying friends in winter: several larger feeders will be installed close to the shopping centre, and smaller ones will be placed in pine trees along Visalaukio street.
“It will be possible to watch bird canteens from inside the shopping centre”, – the environmental consultant was joking. – Also, we will try to entice rarer species of birds, creating artificial habitats for them in the area. We hope that northern wheatears and redstarts will occupy specially stacked piles of stones.”
Nests are the other important consideration for birds. Following recommendations by experts from the Lithuanian Society of Ornithologists, we plan to produce and install in the area about 40 nesting boxes for different bird species. Dr. A. Balevičius expects that the area of the “Žali” shopping centre will be inhabited by many species of city and forest outskirt birds: the great, grey and blue tits, colourful jays, fieldfares and blackbirds, and in winter parrot crossbills and bullfinches will come. Perhaps not all the birds will occupy nesting boxes, but they will come to feed, especially in winter.
The area of “Žali” will be attuned not only for birds. We are also preparing to improve living conditions for endemic insects. We intend to build living places for them from industrial pallets packed with reed and timber with holes.
“Although shopping centres are created for people, there is no reason not to take care of the environment and, in the case of “Žali”, to listen to the sensitive landscape of the regional park. We want the building to blend naturally into the surrounding environment, and offer sustainable solutions to help all visitors or residents feel well”, – said Audrius Masionis, Baltisches Haus project manager responsible for the project “Žali”.
A distinctive feature of the new shopping and service centre is a “green” roof. This innovation is a green grass-roll roofing custom-made in Germany, a complex engineering project with integrated heat and water insulation, lawn irrigation and drainage systems.
In addition to imported plants, Lithuanian stonecrops and grey hair-grass that already grow in the area of “Žali” will also flourish on the roof. According to Dr. A. Balevičius, roof plants need to be low growing and maintain an aesthetic appearance not only when they are green, but also after blooming. Stonecrops have been chosen for their resistance to drought and extreme living conditions.
“It is interesting to mention that this roofing is made similarly to rolled grass lawn, which suppliers just bring, simply roll out and stretch in the right place, after connecting all the grass life-support systems. This factory-made roofing practically needs no maintenance – it is enough to irrigate and fertilize it occasionally; it does not even need mowing”, – commented the “Žali”environmental consultant.