Rooftops allow cities more room to grow

We may be a long way behind Europe when it comes to green roofs, but there is now a growing movement across the UK to install green roofs on new build developments wherever possible. And it was no surprise as we attempted to adapt to and mitigate the ever more obvious effects of climate change.

But green roofs offer more than just a natural combatant to climate change. They provide an exciting opportunity for ambitious designers to introduce high quality and attractive living spaces where you wouldn’t expect.

With space at a premium and so many new developments in London, vegetated roofs, terraces and gardens help to breathe new life into previously underused sites. For example, at 20 Fenchurch Street (known as the Walkie Talkie), green roof systems have been used to create a truly unique Sky Garden that spans three floors and offers uninterrupted views across the City of London.

In 2002, it was London mayor Ken Livingstone who outlined his intention to force developers to put grass and trees on the roofs of all new office developments – setting the precedent for the current growth. And despite the new Mayor and his new ideas, living roofs and walls are still set to play a key role in increasing green cover in central London by 5% before 2030 – in line with ambitious roofs

The environmental benefits of green roofs are clear to see. They can help developers to meet standards such as the Code for Sustainable Homes and BREEAM, and the insulation they provide can considerably lower heating/cooling bills. Benefiting the building and its occupants, green roofs also contribute to healthier cities and reduce Urban Heat Islands.

Stormwater and surface water run-off has also become a huge problem in cities. As developments reduce the amount of permeable surfaces, this leads to overloading of drainage systems and increases the risk of flooding. With the ability to retain high levels of precipitation – between 50 and 90%– green roofs can help to control and slow the water run-off.

So, the UK green roof industry is certainly growing, but with no specific government funding or incentives, progress has been far from spectacular. London still represents the largest single market in the UK, but it is important that over the next few years our other major cities follow this lead and don’t let the grass grow under their feet


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