Award-winning outdoor living designer produces elegant energy saving solutions for home and office balconies.
Summer is coming! And it will be hot! Most people associate ways to cool themselves down in the summer with ice cream, tall glasses of lemon ice tea, swimming pools and, most importantly, air conditioners. However, while some classic ways to cool down can be enjoyed with negligible impacts to the environment, the reality is that we are becoming more conscious of the need to save energy. Last year’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster has set Japan on a course of reevaluating how people can save energy. Theodore Jennings, principle designer and owner of Vacation Veranda, says that creating urban balcony and rooftop lifestyle gardens is one way we can move toward cooling the environment and saving energy.
When Jennings started his balcony greening transformation company two years ago, some people thought it was a good idea but didn’t really take him seriously. Last year’s triple disaster, however, actually helped his company to grow. The Texas native and 14-year permanent resident in Japan says that although he doesn’t have the answers to everything regarding the looming energy crisis in Japan, he passionately believes that each individual and company can play a role in greening their own personal space. “Everyone seems to be waiting for the government to do something, but you can do something now yourself and have fun at the same time”.
Some people started listening to him and orders soon followed. His outdoor lifestyle garden design company’s motto is to “Escape, have a vacation in your own home!”.
Jennings’s efforts to green and beautify verandas in Tokyo hasn’t gone unnoticed. He’s been featured in the New York Times, Aera magazine and, most recently, in the Japan Times for his “out of the box” niche business concept, in the concrete jungle of Tokyo, revamping unused balcony spaces into lush outdoor lifestyle gardens. Last year, Vacation Veranda took home the silver medal in the national Hibiya Lifestyle Garden competition where it beat many large and established garden and design firms. He said he put his booth together on a shoestring budget and still won.
He mixes many natural elements such as wooden decks, potted plants, rocks, and water into his projects. Most importantly, his designs are eco-friendly. Studies show that greening balcony and rooftops significantly cuts the heat of hot concrete floors that can rise to more than twice the outdoor temperature. Greening your terrace can reduce the heat to just 5-degrees difference compared to the outside heat, or even cooler. The results mean that your air conditioner uses less power to cool your space, and that is money in your pocket!
Jennings says that although starting a new business is difficult, he’s pleased with his performance to date with 25 projects completed and more larger corporate contracts on the horizon. He’s hoping to someday achieve his goal to become the “Louis Vuitton of outdoor lifestyle garden design”.
And with the Japanese government now offering up to 50% cash back in a program to incentivize individual households and corporations to green their rooftops and terraces, maybe he will.
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