Building Green at the Hanover Action public meeting, 28 October

Building Green founder James Farrell is speaking at the next meeting of Hanover Action, Friday 28 October.

The meeting is from 6.30 pm at Hanover Community Centre on Southover Street, and there will be talks and plant stalls. More details here.

The subject is ‘Greening our urban landscape‘, and James is speaking about the potential to plant up your building surfaces.

Joining James is Organic Roofs head honcho Lee Evans, and Paul Norman from the One Planet Living Group.

Come along – it’s free! – learn stuff, make friends, get inspired!

Brighton & Hove Building Green

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Rooftop revolution?

Councillor Robert Nemeth has called for a ‘rooftop revolution’ to do something with Brighton’s ‘wasted roof space’. Visitors to the i360 look across a pretty desolate landscape north over Brighton.

Here at Building Green we couldn’t agree more and will seek a meeting. We’re pleased to see the Aroe MSK installation on the Hilton roof, but think green roofs would be a greater contribution to the health of the city.

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Read the article in the Independent here and here.

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In London there are planning requirements for green roofs and walls on developments over a certain size. In Germany and Switzerland things are rather more established, with Government incentives that encourage greening that creates benefits for storm water management. Portland does this too, with it’s Ecoroof incentive.

That’s the gauntlet for Brighton & Hove then – develop the incentives and policies to make the city a leader in making the most of that ‘wasted space’. A hella better view for i360 tourists too!

green rooftops in Hamburg

Some inspiration from across the Pond

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.

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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!

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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?

Green roof course taking bookings for October

The DIY Green Roofs course is open for bookings, and takes place October 29-30.

It’s a highly successful weekend course that gets great feedback, and draws participants from across the UK and beyond.

More information, and bookings, here.

Now booking – DIY green roofs training weekend, 29-30 October

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.

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Building Green DIY Green Roof workshoppers taking a tour of the Velo Cafe, Brighton

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Happy green roofers with their green roofed bird boxes

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Building Green DIY Green Roof workshop crew hearing about the special green wall at Madeira Drive, Brighton

The most prominent green roof in the UK

The new Parliamentary Education Centre – opened in February 2015 – sits on the edge of Victoria Tower Gardens in London and sports a green wall and green roof.

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Designed by Feilden & Mawson, it achieved a Breeam Excellent, and contains five separate spaces where children can learn about the history of British democracy, citizenship and politics.

Why Sedum green roofs often struggle to survive…

Good article here by Lee Evans, Director of Organic Roofs, on why so many Sedum green roofs struggle.

Struggling Sedum green roof

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!