Building Green – the Bible

Tucked away on the resources section of the Building Green website is a broken link that tells the story of how this group came about.

London Ecology Unit published a highly influential book in 1993 called ‘Building Green – A guide to using plants on roofs, walls and pavements’. It was a prescient tome – heralding techniques and approaches from across Europe and the world that came established only years later in the UK, Building Green was a systemic, ecological approach to urban nature. It became the name of our community group.

When at the Greater London Authority, I created an electronic version of the out of print manuscript – the broken link referred to. Well, here it is in all its free, downloadable glory. Go crazy.

Johnstone and Newton – Building Green

In particular note the appendices which list plants for different locations – walls of different aspects, balconies, roofs etc. Check it out, it’s great – all credit to the originators Jacklyn Johnston and John Newton.

Depave our city? A lesson from Portland, Oregon

We know that some parts of Brighton & Hove are ‘risky’ when it comes to flooding and depaving may provide part of the answer. Don’t worry, we aren’t advocating digging up the whole city! 

Building Green was speaking on the subject recently at a Hove Civic Society meeting, and reflecting on the July 2014 floods – 100 properties flooded in Portslade and 300 emergency calls to East Sussex Fire and Rescue in a single morning. Now, this is ‘surface water flooding’ we are talking about – the kind where very heavy rainfall runs and collects in the hollows in the hard surfaces in our towns and cities.

Cities tend to be impermeable places – and we know that where we can increase permeability at scale, for example through landscaping, retaining front and back gardens, green roofs and other ‘sustainable drainage’ approaches, we can reduce the risk of flooding.

Come and learn more about it all this weekend – and how you can help by ‘doing it yourself’ at the workshops run by Building Green, Organic Roofs and Brighton Permaculture Trust. Not too  late to book a place!

Portslade is home to two of the first ‘rain gardens’ in Brighton & Hove. Building Green and partners have completed a study that has found enough flat roofspace in 9km2 of central Brighton – 87 football pitches worth in fact – to hold back 100 Olympic swimming pools of rainwater that our street drainage networks might struggle with during heavy rainfall events.

As we’ve reported before, there are other places that do this much, much better. Let’s learn from them.

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Victoria Recreation Ground rain garden, Portslade

One such place is Portland, Oregon – and in this blog Dusty Gedge writes about a new initiative to ‘depave Portland’ – ripping up the hard surfaces and planting stuff.

Good for sustainable drainage – but also good for visual amenity, and even crime rates potentially. A study in Chicago Illinois in 2001 in one public housing development found that robberies were down by 48% and violent crime by 56% in areas where buildings had been ‘greened’ with green walls and landscaping. Poster below. Those are big numbers – what if we could achieve 1 or 2% – still worth doing? Building Green thinks so.

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‘Do it yourself’ a green roof this weekend!

Hurry to grab one of the final places on this weekend’s Green Roof course, led by Building Green and Organic Roofs with Brighton Permaculture Trust.

Learn the why and what, and practice the how by making your very own green roofed bird box to take away. Enjoy the harbourside location in Shoreham and view the green roof lab and installations there. Question the experts, and use the opportunity to get some consultancy on your project. Visit some inspirational sites in Brighton & Hove to get you fired up for ‘doing it yourself’ this year!

We will also cover green walls – and can tailor the content of the teaching to your needs.

This is the 10th year of the course, and always popular. Bookings can be made through the Brighton Permaculture Trust here.

Green Roof DIY weekend – bookings open

Get ready to build your own green roof!

There are some spaces still available on our Green Roof DIY weekend – 13 & 14 May 2017.

Here’s what people have said about the course:

I just wanted to write to thank you for the inspirational Green Roof course this weekend; I feel ready (and keen) to start my extension roof and confident that I can!”

“I know that a feedback form will be coming but I just wanted you to know just how much I appreciated all the effort that you put into the course which hit the right note on so many levels.”

Bookings can be made through the Brighton Permaculture Trust here. Lee from Organic Roofs and I look forward to seeing you there!

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Green Architecture Day tomorrow!

Don’t forget, our own James Farrell and Lee Evans will be at Green Architecture Day tomorrow.

Come down and say hello! – we are speaking at 1040.

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For info, tickets etc visit here.

WWF’s Living Planet Centre, Woking

Visited the WWF HQ today for a conference to celebrate 5 years of the Catchment Based Approach.

What a building! Completed in 2014, Hopkins Architects (see Olympic velodrome) have created a super comfortable, light and airy space with impeccable green credentials of course (BREEAM ‘Outstanding’). There’s “extensive use of solar energy, there’s also rainwater harvesting and underground heat pumps, while the choice of building materials includes recycled concrete and, of course, timber from responsibly managed forests.”

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From our point of view, there are also some lovely, thriving planted balconies and walls that make an attractive and wildlife-friendly space under the eaves.

It cost a bomb though (£20m) – that’s where the membership fees must go!

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Furthermore, “the bin stores and cycle shelters within the woodland edge also provide opportunities for new habitats. Climbing Ivy and Honey suckle effectively create living wall features that support a green roof of sedum and saxifrage species. The entrance level introduces non-native species like Bamboo to reflect the global nature of WWF’s work. A restrained palette of ornamental grass and bulb planting complements the elegant lines of the building with flowering climbing plants such as Passion flower and Jasmine adding colour and scent to the railings.”