Roof gardens are blossoming – and developers are cashing in on growing demand during the pandemic

Green Roof Installation

Lockdowns aren’t easy for anyone, but for that one in eight UK households who have no access to a shared or private garden, they’ve been near impossible.

The good news is that a growing number of developers have found a solution to the problem: roof gardens.

‘I think it should be made a planning condition that roofs are utilised as a green space,’ says the award-winning garden designer Manoj Malde, (manojmaldegardendesign.co.uk).

‘Roof gardens can be incredibly beautiful; the air seems fresher up there, transporting you to another world.’

Pocket Living, a developer specialising in selling affordable one-bedroom homes to first-time buyers, believes that access to a garden benefits its residents’ mental health. Although its apartments measure only 38 sq metres inside their sites, all offer some shared outside space.

‘My roof garden definitely helped me get through the lockdown,’ says IT sales executive Lucy Wright, 30, who has lived in Pocket Living’s Wandsworth development for two years.

‘Like millions of others, I have been working from home for most of the year and after a day in front of my computer screen it was great to get out on the roof and meet others over a glass of wine at a social distance.’

Pocket Living is selling off-plan in Harbard Close, Barking (prices from £194,000 to £210,000) and Addiscombe Grove, Croydon (from £260,000 to £296,000, pocketliving.com).

It’s not only in overcrowded London that you find new roof gardens being built. In the heart of Maidenhead in Berkshire, the Waterside Quarter, due to be finished this month, is a development of one to three-bedroom apartments with a roof garden of astroturf and planters. Prices start at £315,000 (shanlyhomes.com).

For the full article, please click here.

Avoiding Brexit supply issues through careful planning

fitting iJack connectors between deckboards

Construction managers overseeing domestic and commercial projects incorporating green roofs are being reminded to plan especially carefully over the coming months to best manage supply chain issues created by Brexit.

Many of the roll-out green roof systems popular in the UK are European imports of sedum and wildflower blankets and rely upon delivery within a set timeframe to ensure the sedum arrives in a suitable condition for the roof to establish successfully. However high levels of freight traffic in ports, compliance with new import regulations and border disruption could delay deliveries, creating issues in the supply chain and potential delays on-site.

“Maintaining close contact with your green roof supplier or manufacturer will be critical over the coming months for two reasons,” said Julian Thurbin, Director of UK grower and system supplier Wallbarn. “Firstly, the sedum element of roll-out green roofs is usually delivered to site on a ‘just in time’ basis because the plants are delicate and should not, we believe, be left rolled up for longer than 72 hours. If the blankets are held up at borders it could impact their long-term performance and create delays on-site. Clients, therefore, need to know how their supplier is managing the situation and the plans in place to ensure on-time deliveries.

“Secondly, many British producers such as ourselves are already seeing higher than normal levels of enquiries from specifiers and purchasing departments looking to secure a home-grown green roof supply through the first quarter of 2021 and onwards. We don’t foresee demand outstripping supply but we are advising customers to plan well ahead. They should also keep the dialogue open and frequent with their chosen supplier especially for larger projects or where timescales are particularly critical,” added Julian.

Green roofs are a buoyant sector of the construction industry and bring huge benefits to environments they are installed into, encouraging and supporting pollinators and wildlife, controlling stormwater run-off, regulating city centre temperatures, improving air quality and being great to look at. Research has confirmed they also prolong the life of flat roofs, making them an environmentally friendly, long-lasting roofing solution.

Wallbarn pioneered the M-Tray modular green roof system which contains all elements of a roll-out green roof within a portable tray that can be hand lifted into position on-site. M-Tray sedum and wildflower plants are grown in Hampshire and Wallbarn endeavours to source all elements of the system as locally as possible to maintain a low environmental footprint.

For the full article, please click here.

Three things you need to consider when retrofitting a green roof

A bee on a flower

As the government announces further commitments towards carbon reduction, one of the design trends we expect to see in 2021 is the wider take-up of green roofs.

There are many ecological benefits when creating a green roof. These include: 

  • Adding mass, thermal resistance and absorbing less heat than regular roofs, so you reduce the carbon footprint and the urban heat island effect
  • Creating a habitat for animals and insects. As well as directly providing an environment and food supply, planted roofs also cool and humidify the surrounding air, creating a beneficial microclimate
  • The vegetation in green roofs can filter out carbon dioxide, nitrates and other harmful materials. This also helps improve local air quality, which can benefit both humans and animals. (you can expect to hear much more on the subject of air quality and over-heating throughout 2021)
  • Depending on the green roof design, the immediate water run-off can be reduced considerably – by as much as 90 per cent, reducing stress on drainage systems and in turn helping to mitigate localised flooding
  • Plants are also effective at reducing noise, as they provide natural sound insulation; they can reduce reflected sound by up to 8dB.

The ecological and environmental benefits outlined above typically increase in line with the substrate depth. For example, the environmental benefits of shallow green roofs are on the whole far more modest than those offered by intensive ones, due to the smaller range of vegetation that can be grown.

The benefits are clear but what about the rules? Well, if you want to carry out repairs on, or re-cover a pitched or flat roof, you will need approval, if:

  • You carry out structural alterations or the loading of the roof covering significantly changes
  • The performance of the new covering will be significantly different to that of the existing covering in the event of a fire
  • You are replacing or repairing more than 25 per cent of the roof area.

The key building regulations issues are to do with structure, fire safety and thermal insulation performance.

For the full article, please click here.

Sub-contractors to be involved in green retrofits

M Tray module and flowers close up

Builders who are registered to carry out green home refurbishments will be able to sub-contract in a bid to widen the number of tradespeople who can do the work.

The government said subcontracting any part of the work involved in installing eligible improvements must be carried out in accordance with the relevant publicly accessible standards certification (PAS), or microgeneration certification scheme (MCS) requirement with regards to subcontracting.

The primary installer must assume full responsibility for any subcontracted work.

The accreditation and subcontracting requirements and rules are the same across both the regular and low income parts of the scheme.

The move follows poor take up to register with TrustMark to do energy efficiency retrofits such as insulation, solar panels and heat pumps under the government’s Green Homes Grant scheme.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said just three of its 250 members interested in doing the work had registered. This is because few building firms have the MCS or PAS 30 required.

However, Rico Wojtulewicz, housing and planning policy head of The National Federation of Builders (NFB), said allowing sub-contractors to do the work was creating another layer of bureaucracy and would not guarantee high standards.

“It’s illogical to assume having a sub-contractor with a registered firm taking on the liability will ensure quality,” he commented.

Rico said shell companies could be created to do the work and then close if there was a problem. The NFB added that PAS 35 certification, which covers the whole lifetime of a building, would have been a better qualification.

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Should Roofers Continue to Work During Social Distancing?

THE PRIME MINISTER declared another national lockdown on Monday 4 January, responding to the higher transmissability of the new COVID-19 variant.

However, as was the case in the first lockdown, the construction industry is able to remain working, as long as workers are careful to keep protective measures in place.

There’s more information on Working in Other People’s Homes here.

Working Safely

Here, Rubber4Roofs shows how contractors can continue to work safely during the Covid-19 lockdown.

For the full story, please click here.

Paris agrees to turn Champs-Élysées into ‘extraordinary garden’

Champs-Élysées

The mayor of Paris has said a €250m (£225m) makeover of the Champs-Élysées will go ahead, though the ambitious transformation will not happen before the French capital hosts the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Anne Hidalgo said the planned work, unveiled in 2019 by local community leaders and businesses, would turn the 1.9 km (1.2 mile) stretch of central Paris into “an extraordinary garden”.

The Champs-Élysées committee has been campaigning for a major redesign of the avenue and its surroundings since 2018.

“The legendary avenue has lost its splendour during the last 30 years. It has been progressively abandoned by Parisians and has been hit by several successive crises: the gilets jaunes, strikes, health and economic,” the committee said in a statement welcoming Hidalgo’s announcement.

“It’s often called the world’s most beautiful avenue, but those of us who work here every day are not at all sure about that,” Jean-Noël Reinhardt, the committee president said in 2019.

“The Champs-Élysées has more and more visitors and big-name businesses battle to be on it, but to French people it’s looking worn out.”

The committee held a public consultation over what should be done with the avenue. The plans include reducing space for vehicles by half, turning roads into pedestrian and green areas, and creating tunnels of trees to improve air quality.

The Champs-Élysées’ name is French for the mythical Greek paradise, the Elysian Fields. It was originally a mixture of swamp and kitchen gardens.

Please click here for the full story.

As priorities shift, world’s largest cement firm inks $3.4 billion deal to focus on solar, green roofs

sedum in flower close up

Cement maker LafargeHolcim has agreed to buy specialist roofing company Firestone Building Products for $3.4 billion, in the latest example of shifting priorities within the building industry.

In a statement issued last week, LafargeHolcim — which is the world’s biggest cement manufacturer — said FSBP played “an instrumental role” in mitigating energy loss via the roofs of buildings. It’s agreed to purchase the company, which specializes in insulated, solar, “cool” and green roofs, from tire and rubber business Bridgestone Americas.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Friday, LafargeHolcim CEO Jan Jenisch referenced FSBP’s strengths in “new sustainable solutions.” He described the move as a “perfect fit” for his company’s goal “to be the most sustainable and most innovative building materials supplier in the future.”

A Changing Industry

The environmental impact of the construction industry is significant, and according to a 2018 report from Chatham House, over 4 billion metric tons of cement are produced annually. This, the policy institute said, accounts for around 8% of global CO2 emissions.

As concerns about the environment grow, there is a renewed focus on the sustainability of buildings and major companies in the sector are looking to bolster their options when it comes to products, systems and technologies.

The purchase of FSBP supplements LafargeHolcim’s other products, including its ECOPact concrete, which the company claims can have “30% to 100% less carbon emissions compared to standard (CEM I) concrete.”

According to the company, the acquisition of FSBP will add three research and development labs, 1,800 distribution points and 15 manufacturing facilities to its network. Looking ahead, LafargeHolcim said it wanted to “swiftly globalize the business.”

For the full story, please click here.

The New Face of Integrated Planning and Design

How to install a green roof - Radisson hotel

It is estimated the world will invest 94 trillion U.S. dollars in infrastructure globally in the next 20 years. With that level of investment, we should ask some important questions. What is the best approach we should use today to deliver these projects? How can we incorporate climate change, social equity, and sustainability into our project planning? What is the future of our engineering practice?

One thing 2020 has taught us—we can’t solve problems as we did before. Today’s infrastructure investment must include new thinking. Through innovation, every project, regardless of sector, needs the longevity to last several decades and incorporate forward-thinking innovations to solve future challenges today. We must start to apply “green box” thinking.

Rami Issa

Rami Issa, AECOM

Cities, developers, architects, and engineers are increasingly looking for ways to move away from the “concrete jungle” and incorporate elements of nature into our everyday lives. This focus on more sustainable development is the same approach we should take when evaluating infrastructure.

Many of us are familiar with gray infrastructure—the more traditional, concrete, human-engineered solutions — however, green infrastructure is a solution worth exploring and implementing alongside gray infrastructure. It refers to natural elements of our ecosystem, such as forests, reefs, and wetlands, which can serve many of the same gray infrastructure functions.

When you blend both green and gray infrastructure together, the result is a cohesive solution that helps address community resiliency future challenges. In many instances, incorporating green infrastructure into future infrastructure investments may boost eco-tourism and generate new revenues for local communities.

Green infrastructure can take many forms, from protected natural areas to green roofs in cities. The goal is to employ nature to provide natural benefits such as clean air or reliable flows of clean water. By blending conservation and restoration techniques with innovative engineering, green-gray infrastructure provides solutions enabling communities to mitigate natural disasters and adapt to a changing climate. However, the challenge is strategically combining the two.

For the full story, please click here.

Rotterdam is using smart city tech to solve pressing urban problems.

M-Tray sedum green roof on pallets

During the past decade, thousands of Rotterdam building owners installed green roofs on their dwellings — about 330,000 square metres in total, almost two per cent of the city’s 18.5 square kilometres of flat roof space. But where some cities have promoted such projects to improve energy efficiency and absorb carbon dioxide, Rotterdam’s green roof infrastructure is all about water, and keeping as much rainwater run-off as possible out of aging, overtaxed sewers in order to prevent flooding.

About four-fifths of the Dutch port is below sea level. As Paul van Roosmalen, the city official overseeing sustainable public real estate, puts it: “The water comes from all sides” — the sea, the sky, the river and ground water. “It’s always been a threat.” But he also sees an opportunity to use a marriage of technology and green design to elevate the role of rooftops in managing Rotterdam’s water pressures.

While typical green roofs function like sponges and look like gardens, Rotterdam is working with public and private landlords to develop a “green-blue grid.” Instead of simply fitting out roof areas with plantings, these spaces can also be equipped with reservoirs or tanks to retain excess flow — blue roofs. The tanks, in turn, are equipped with electronic drain valves that can be opened and closed remotely, in some cases via a smart phone app.

“The problem,” says van Roosmalen, “is that when they’re full, they’re full.” The city’s vision, he explains, is to develop a system for co-ordinating the water levels in these tanks to help manage sewer capacity. The idea is to link the valve control devices into a grid of blue roofs that function, in effect, like a dispersed network of storm water reservoirs. When there’s rain in the forecast, the reservoirs can be drained automatically. Then, during heavy weather, they can store rainwater, reducing pressure and flooding in the sewer system.

While Rotterdam’s blue-green grid is still far from completion, it may be seen as a compelling example of how a set of technologies can be harnessed to produce what can be described as a smart city solution to a pressing urban problem.

The technological linchpin in Rotterdam’s strategy has been the installation of a highly sensitive weather radar on the roof of the city’s tallest building. The device is capable of detecting rainfall 16 to 20 kilometres away. Remotely operated blue-green roof control systems can be programmed to dynamically respond to those forecasts and release water that sits in the reservoirs. (A similar project, the Resilience Network of Smart and Innovative Climate-Adaptive Rooftops, or Resilio, is underway at several Amsterdam social housing complexes.)

For the full story, please click here.

Wallbarn advises careful planning to avoid Brexit supply issues

Green roof Yorkshire

Construction managers overseeing domestic and commercial projects that incorporate green roofs are being reminded to plan carefully over the coming months to best manage supply chain issues due to Brexit.

Many roll-out green roof systems popular in the UK are European imports of sedum and wildflower blankets, and rely upon delivery within a set timeframe to ensure the sedum arrives in a suitable condition for the roof to establish successfully.

However, high levels of freight traffic in ports, compliance with new import regulations and border disruption could delay deliveries, creating issues in the supply chain and potential delays on-site.

Julian Thurbin, director of green roof manufacturer Wallbarn, said: “Maintaining close contact with your green roof supplier or manufacturer will be critical over the coming months for two reasons. Firstly, the sedum element of roll-out green roofs is usually delivered to site on a ‘just in time’ basis, because the plants are delicate and should not, we believe, be left rolled up for longer than 72 hours.

“If the blankets are held up at borders, then it could impact their long-term performance and create delays on-site. Clients therefore need to know how their supplier is managing the situation and the plans in place to ensure on-time deliveries.”

He added: “Secondly, many British producers, such as ourselves, are already seeing higher than normal levels of enquiries from specifiers and purchasing departments looking to secure a home-grown green roof supply through the first quarter of 2021 and onwards.

“We don’t foresee demand outstripping supply, but we are advising customers to plan well ahead. They should also keep dialogue open and frequent with their chosen supplier, especially for larger projects or where timescales are particularly critical.”

For the full article, please click here.