So we like to think we have some great green roofs and walls here in Brighton. Well, we do – but there are lessons we can learn from others including the good citizens of Olympia WA, San Francisco CA and Portland OR.
I was lucky enough to visit this summer – here are some pictures that I hope act as inspiration. We could think, and act, so much bigger.
In the Government complex at Olympia, Washington, is a large area of green roof established on underground car parks. Food is grown for local food banks, tended by Government workers. Some lovely large squash ripening in the sun. There is a large area of wildflower mix (‘Ecolawn’) sown for insects and appearance, and is not watered. This has been established by the Department of Enterprise Services – basically the legal and procurement department!
Nearby, just outside the historic Capitol building, is an area of rain gardens that have been retrofitted to help manage storm water. They are very attractive, and feature seating to encourage enjoyment.
San Francisco Academy of Sciences has a living roof…that is so large it is a visitor attraction in its own right. Not a very good photo, so I’ve stolen one from the website and there are more here.
Also in San Francisco were these mini gardens, usually in shopping areas, that brought planting into very urban settings, softened the street scene and provided fun features and places to relax. A ‘public parklet’ indeed!
Portland, Oregon is well known for its approach to sustainable urban planning and design. The whole neighbourhood we stayed in (Alberta – much like Brighton in its hipsterness) has bioswales and other street level drainage built in. Basically permeable sidewalks (ownership extends to the kerb so householders plant up their strip of sidewalk however they like), roof drainage to ground level, street level swales and other features incorporated into street furniture and traffic calming. Drains are clearly marked to encourage people not to use them for disposing nasties. Much of the sidewalk strip was used to grow veggies and fruit – including a nearby pub that harvested salad crops from the street and boasted of it on its menu.
Here in Brighton, a number of partners including the Council and Environment Agency have launched a pilot ‘sustainable drainage’ scheme in Portslade. Great, but surely we could be bolder?
We are now taking bookings for our DIY Green Roof weekend this October.
Based at Organic Roofs HQ on the south coast near Brighton, and involving site visits to some superb green roofs and living walls, the course is run by experts from Brighton & Hove Building Green and Organic Roofs, and administered by Brighton Permaculture Trust.
More information here.
The first ‘vegetated shingle’ green roofs in the UK are currently being built at the West Quay development at Brighton Marina Village.
As the natural ecosystem in this location is the vegetation that grows in beach shingle (ie vegetated shingle), the aim is to mimic this habitat. Planters at podium level will also incorporate this habitat.
Bird boxes for swifts, sparrows and peregrines are also being put up.
There is natural vegetated shingle at Black Rock, next to the marina, and west along the Volks Railway. This is one of the rarest habitats in the UK, and a large proportion of the world’s vegetated shingle is found in Hampshire, Sussex and Kent.
Much of the shingle habitat in Brighton is in poor condition, and a management plan is being drawn up with funding from developer contributions. A new shingle garden is planned as part of the Volks Railway redevelopment.
Continue West to Shoreham beach, or East to Dungeness, and in the summer you’ll see what a glorious and special habitat this is.
Building Green is planning a visit to see the roof works in progress.
Unfortunately the many Sedum green roofs in Brighton are struggling too – for example those on Council buildings such as Whitehawk Children’s Centre and library, private buildings like the Smart House on Ditchling Road and the American Express HQ in Kemptown, and schools like Downs Junior.
The good news is that any struggling green roof can often be given a whole new lease of life by adding additional substrate, and establishing some more suitable plants.
Better still to get it right first time!
This weekend’s DIY Green Roof workshop was a real success!
We had participants from Brighton & Hove and further afield across the country…and a keen Spanish green roofer who travelled over from Córdoba!
We discussed the fine points of projects on sheds, house extensions and even a Dutch barge.
Everyone put their learning into practice by building their own green roofs and installing them on a bird box they also put together.
The second day was a tour of some green roofs and green walls.