Our guest blogger this month is Dusty Gedge -urban ecologist, passionate green roof campaigner, Tv presenter, a "London Leader" President of the European Federation of Green Roof Associations and founder of the resource livingroofs.org.
It is a fact that our cities need to adapt to climate change - there is evidence that we need at least a 10% increase in green space in our cities by 2020 to help this process. In many urban areas, particularly in London, and most importantly the City of London, the majority of the land area is roof space. Green roofs are no longer an option or 'pleasant' thing to do. They are increasingly being seen to be a necessity.
In the UK we have been relatively slow to take up the idea of green roofs. However over the last ten years this has changed dramatically. Partly I think it would be fair to say to the establishment of my organisation www.livingroofs.org that has campaign and advised on green roofs and green roof policy throughout the UK. There are very good reasons to ensure that both large and small roof areas are greened wherever possible.
In the Uk context, it is predicted that we will have:
• Increased summer temperatures
• Increased likelihood of intense summer storms
This is what's predicted. But lets take the last week of June 2009. In London excess summer temperatures that week lead to a health alert 2. In essence this meant the sick and vulnerable were advised not to leave home. Such summer heat excesses also lead to increase in the use of air conditioning .
Green roofs are now widely recognised as helping cities to cool during heat excesses and also reduce the need for air conditioning in individual buildings. This can be important also for social housing that has been traditionally been designed for winter insulation and summer cooling. Many such properties at present can be very hot during the nights after a summer heat excess. Green roofs help to redid this heat.
Picture Credit: Green roof consultancy
In the first week of July 2009, the week after the health alert there were several intense summer storms that lead to a large number of tube stations being flooded. This caused economic damage to the London as as a business hub. Again green roofs have a very important role to play here. A good green roof can help reduce the amount of rainwater leaving roofs during excess summer storms. This reduces the load on the storm water system and reduces the likelihood of summer flash storms.
Through my professional consultancy I recently worked on a green infrastructure report for the Victoria Business Improvement District. In this study we identify the roofs areas that could potentially be greened. Victoria area was particularly effected by the July summer storms in 2009. There are plenty of large roofs there that could be greened and I am sure that the Victoria BID will be looking to help stimulate retrofitting in the area in the coming years.
However green roofs are not just about these headline types of events. They are one of the few multi-beneficial technologies. They not only cool buildings and cities and reduce rainwater leaving but they are now increasing being recognised as providing a refuge for biodiversity with in the urban realm. I came to green roofs through my interest and passion for nature. For many businesses that are urban based green roofs can provide one of the only ways to provide for meaningful biodiversity habitat.
Picture credit: retrofit Barclays HQ designed by the Green roof consultancy
Many leading developers in London recognise this important aspect of green roofs. However it is imperative that green roofs, even they are only for wildlife should be designed by specialists, who not only understand the technology but also have the experience of ecology and buildings, as opposed to buying off the shelf 'IKEA' solutions.
Picture Credit: Retrofit - London Underground - designed by The Green Roof Consultancy
Furthermore green roofs acts as noise insulation, air pollution amelioration, increased water quality and provide much need visual green space in our urban core. However with the recent feed in tariff for solar panels many peopler suggesting that Solar panels should come before green roofs. This demonstrates a lack of vision and to be frank, lack of knowledge. Green roofs and solar panels combined actually provide better energy performance of the panels and increase the benefits proffered by the green roof.
London is currently the only City in the UK with a distinct green roof policy in the New London Plan. Many London Boroughs and other City/local authorities throughout the country are pursuing the delivery of green roofs through the planning process.Whilst this is important in ensuring that new developments that are planned there is a need to start retrofitting green roofs to existing buildings.
Many roofs will not be able to take a green roof, however many will. And as many businesses are either let large own large buildings in out cities and also in the countryside, they can play an active role in not only meeting their own CSR commitments but also helping the country adapt to climate change.
To find out more about Dusty's work please visit:
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