Source: Green Factory
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Flood alleviation: Green roofs
Climate change will lead to an increase in rainfall and more intense rain storms, leading to more frequent flooding, including from surface water. Green roofs are one way that we can help stem this problem.
Green roofs are an important example of the kind of technology that can help us adapt to climate change.
These roofs are partly or completely covered in plants, grown in a mixture of soil and recycled construction waste such as crushed bricks. This is laid on top of high-tech waterproof membranes. In addition to cooling and insulating buildings, depending on the outside temperature, green roofs also provide important habitats for biodiversity and cut the speed at which rain water runs off buildings. Green roofs are being used in several high-profile development sites including Greenwich Peninsula and Barking Riverside.
Green roofs are not a modern innovation but with advances in waterproofing technologies they have become an important element of sustainable construction in the last decade.
What we are doing and why
Because the Environment Agency has to be regularly consulted on planning decisions, we can play a big part in promoting green roofs. We have produced information for developers and local authorities about their benefits, installation and upkeep and we can also offer advice and guidance on the technology involved.
In the Thames region, around 14 hectares of green roof space has already been installed and much more is planned, with our staff influencing developers on proposals to include green roofs at several high profile sites.
Planning for the regeneration of Greenwich Peninsula, which will provide homes for 25,000 people as well as offices and leisure facilities, aspires to 100 per cent green roof coverage, with a minimum of 40 per cent coverage for all individual sites.
With around 2,500 hectares of existing flat roof space in London there is considerable opportunity to adapt our urban environment to a wetter and warmer climate by replacing these hard surfaces with living roof spaces.
We are pursuing this long term objective by working with a wide range of partners in both the public and private sectors – from universities to planning authorities and businesses.
‘Installing living roofs in our existing urban environment will not only help us adapt to a changing climate,’ says Marc Deeley, from the Thames Gateway Sustainable Development Team. ‘It will also create a new urban landscape that can be enjoyed by people through direct access or as an alternative view from the office window. Some living roofs can even be designed to provide us with food, so the potential for city regions to develop and implement these technologies could create thousands of sustainable jobs at the same time.’
The green roofs of the City of London, London
Source: (Getty Images/Arup/GLA via LIVING ROOFS)
What do livingroofs say:
The development of a unique London green roof policy has been driven by a number of specific factors. Urban ecologists and their issues certainly provided the initial impetus for policy activities and innovations. The climate change agenda and how a large city like adapts has certainly galvanized the need for a policy. What is needed in the future is a greater understanding and improved planning tools to ensure that good green roofs are installed to meet the cross cutting benefits that a city like London requires. It would be hoped that the Environment Agency Toolkit sets a precedent that at regional level [GLA] and a local [LBs] green roof policies and conditions can be refined to ensure the quality of green roof implementation. There is still unfortunately a tendency on designers, whether they be architects or landscape designers, to seek out mechanistic product based solutions.
The increased uptake in London is having an effect beyond the capital, in particular in the Greater London Watershed – in particularly the area known as the Thames Gateway. This area includes much of East London and stretches along the Thames estuary into Kent and Essex. Already there are a number of huge developments, which are under pressure to include green roofs as mitigation and compensation for ecological reasons.
However there will be a need to constantly refine policy to meet the changing climate and needs of London. Green roofs are certainly no longer a fad but are an ever-growing market and an integral response to impending climate challenges. The hope is that policy makers and regulators ensure that the roofs that are installed are of the quality needed to meet the capitals diverse and evolving agendas.