Sustainability: Green roofs

As sustainability has risen up the environmental agenda, “greenwashing” has become a serious problem. Yet one innovation in particular is proving to be particularly immune to the problem of overstatement: for architects, designers and and landscape urbanists, green roofs are fast becoming a byword for measures to lower the impact of buildings across their whole life cycle.

One of the most notable trends at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show was the prevalence of green roofs and the number of gardens featuring native wild flowers.

Green roofs offer multiple environmental benefits, including: trebling the lifespan of the roof, reducing energy use by lowering heating and cooling costs, mitigating the loss of habitats caused by construction, and greatly helping urban biodiversity, including bees and rare birds.

Common in continental Europe and major American cities including Chicago, New York and Portland it is only now that living roofs are reaching a critical mass in the UK: a recent audit estimated that London already has more than 9 square kilometres of green roofs, including the Barclays Tower, London Zoo, LSE, the Horniman Museum and Merrill Lynch HQ.

Organic Roofs, a Brighton-based company that operates nationwide, is helping to lead the way in promoting roof and facade greening as a key facet of the transition to sustainable cities. Until now, the focus for planners and architects has been on large commercial green roofs, but this forward thinking company is taking a different tack. Organic Roofs emphasizes the role of residential properties in the process of urban amelioration: integrating innovative design with ecologically-significant biodiverse habitats – Helen Job.

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