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« New Lawn Society network launched for UK professional and lawn enthusiasts | Main | Renovating a Tired Worn Out Lawn & Pimms »

Roof Top Gardens and Green Buildings

Greenroof1A recent news article caught my attention discussing the issues of installing green and living roofs on buildings. With the current media attention in reducing your carbon footprint, seems like a good idea has been hatched.

Earlier this year saw the first green roof and green wall policy in the UK. Cities in the UK are likely to follow the early innovating example of The City of Sheffield adopting such a policy.

In fact the concept of covering a building with live vegetation dates back to the Stone Age. Simple wooden structures were covered with peat and turves to provide shelter, warmth, and shade from the mid day sun. These green roofs soon became a haven for wildlife and other vegetation, creating a soft landscape and a structure very pleasing to the eye.

A whole new industry is being created planning and implementing green roofs with Trade Associations supporting the concept such as The EFB - European Federation of Green Roof Associations and The Natural Living Roofs Association which is UK based. This association has been established to assist in this green roof renaissance; to provide a comprehensive resource for planners, developers, architects, clients, and others wishing to design, install or promote green roofs. It aims to identify pit-falls and problems, as well as highlight the many benefits of green roofs and case studies of good practice.

The biggest consideration of installing a green roof is the additional weight and load of the construction materials and the retention of rain water which will of course saturate the soil or root zone material rather than quickly run off into the gutter down pipe. A litre of water weighs one kilo. 5mm of rain (1/5th of an inch) over 1,000 sqm equates to 876 cubic litres of water so almost an additional tonne of extra weight. It is common to get 25mm of rainfall or 1 inch in old money so this equates to 4280 cubic litres of water so almost 5 tonnes of additional weight on a roof structure. This past weekend, we had over 50 mm of rain so being prepared for worse case scenario is important.

There are many roof gardens to be viewed in London and around Europe. Most provide a quiet haven for office workers during their lunch break and I was personally involved on the gardens at the top of Cannons Bridge Station - a logistical nightmare of organising soil deliveries and cranes in and around the London traffic flow in the area!

Green roofs have been used extensively for many years and are now being embraced into construction culture by Architects and Planners. The green space could simply be atificial grass or real turf or Sedum or other herb flora such as Chamomile

It is now possible to obtain tiles of wild flower turves and blanket systems that offer a more diverse vegetation such as Sedum. The word "Sedum" is taken from the latin "sedo" meaning to sit and probably refers to the way in which sedum plants seem to sit on rocks, walls, ledges and other seemingly inhospitable places. There are about 400 different types of sedum varying in height, colour and flowering season. Most of them are evergreen and very easy to care for.

As a genus, Sedums are tolerant of most well-drained soils and are at home in poor soil and dry locations. Greenbuilding1
They love sunshine and thrive in full sun or light shade. They can stand going without water for long periods of time but are just as happy in an irrigated flower bed, so long as the soil isn't persistently soggy.

Many Sedums grow well indoors too. They don't need a great deal of attention, just a reasonable amount of light, an occasional watering and a thrice yearly feed.

One such example is Enviromat by Q Lawns Turf. As the name suggests, Enviromat Sedum Matting gains most of its low maintenance and environmental benefits from Sedum plants. Sedum mat typically adapts well to poor soil and exposed sites making it a great alternative to grass. Enviromat is also especially suited to the UK climate and incorporates all the growing medium that the sedum plants need - so it can be used on a soil-less surface, for example a sedum roof or sedum carpet. The Sedum is drought tolerant, attracts wildlife, filters dusts and pollutants from the atmosphere, is low maintenance and absorbs Carbon Dioxide - thus reducing a carbon footprint of a building.

Parks and Sports Grounds and Golf Courses sometimes receive bad press re the use of Pesticides on these areas, although the actual quantity of grams per litre of active ingredient is minimal. What people fail to realise is that these areas are made up of millions of tiny grass plants that have an incredible capacity for absorbing a large cubic volume of Carbon Dioxide day after day, converting it to much needed Oxygen.

With past Government policy leaning towards building on our once parks and open spaces, the Ministers suddenly jump on the band wagon of being Eco-friendly and Carbon Footprint reduction critical. If only they had left our green spaces as green spaces over the past 30 years or so, the current panic to now focus on Carbon Reduction may not have been necessary. The horse has already bolted from the stable.

London will host the Third World Green Roof Congress in September 2008.

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