We may not be able to knock every grey Brutalist building down within some of the concrete jungles we live in, and some may even appreciate the grey backdrop to their workplace or residence but there are some retrofits that could help to make the environment we live in a greener and more pleasant one. I’m not out right knocking concrete, yes it is a useful versatile material but after the post-war construction drive to repopulate many of our cities what we are now left with 50-60 years on is a multitude of grey. One possible way to work with the stock we have is to retrofit the buildings with green roofs. This may be something which in new builds is often at least considered if not implemented but why not in the case of retrofits, the benefits are multiple.
Firstly let’s consider the technical and environmental impact of green roofs. Green roofs can be seen as one way to help with the global issue of climate change, however small an impact overall they may have, for global low impact buildings to become a reality every effort is needed no matter how insignificant it may appear in the wider context. One of the ways in which a green roof can help in this aspect is through increasing the thermal performance of a building. This is achieved through the green roof substrate and vegetation layer acting as a natural insulation barrier keeping unwanted heat during summer months whilst at the same time reducing heat loss during colder times.
The vegetation that is provided through having a green roof can help increase the biodiversity of the surrounding context. By using a mix of vegetation, not only can the overall maintenance of the roof be reduced but the biodiversity can be increased. Now…I’m not suggesting that we should be farming goats on our urban green roofs as per the image to the left but you get the idea. To improve the biodiversity the simple step is to move away from the standard moss or sedum blanket and move closer towards the use wild-flowers which can be regional and hardy. Wild-flowers will help to reduce the impact of higher winds whilst also enabling the roof to cohesively integrate with the natural wildlife which currently strives in the local habitats.
Moving beyond the technical jargon of the benefits of green roofs I also think it’s important to consider the social impact that a green roof can have on the people who inhabit the surrounding environment. With urban regeneration the focus can sometimes be on creating more robust and versatile spaces rather than creating more visual and natural spaces.
To This (2012);
Now, granted the vehicle traffic has been removed which improves the robustness, versatility and openness to footfall fair enough, but could the planners not of kept some of the greenery? With us losing or have already lost plenty of green spaces in our urban areas could green roofs be the answer to creating a more enjoyable and visually appealing urban environment, which in most cases is an urban grey cloud?
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