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.

Save Madeira Terrace!

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Help us restore our iconic arches to their former glory! We will save this historical structure from falling into disrepair, in the process creating a new lively quarter for Brighton.

Save Madeira Terrace  is a crowdfunding campaign launched on 26 June and running until  30 Nov 2017 by which time it needs to raise £432,598.

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Brighton & Hove Building Green is a partner in this project, as the terraces sit hand in glove with Europe’s longest, oldest green wall.

Madeira Drive A5 leaflet Building Green 1509

Crowdfunding launch today – Madeira Terraces

Building Green are attending the launch of the Crowdfunding appeal for Madeira Terraces today. This will be key to securing the ‘proof of concept’ for the restoration of the Victorian terraces, which are integral to the status of the Madeira Drive Green wall.

The Council says that the crowdfunding is a way to kick start this process.  “It will:

Provide restored and rejuvenated new arches to show just how tremendous and beautiful the restored project could be

Allow us to test restoration methods and take apart the structure to investigate the ways in which it can most cost effectively be restored

Provide a new focal point – a show case or “show home” for the bigger project and a way to attract in commercial and external funding for the wider project.”

Building Green will continue to work with the Council and partners to press for and advise on the protection and restoration of the living wall which pre-dates and is integral with the Terraces.

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Make a little bird house in your soul – another successful green roof course!

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Happy green roofers – with Building Green and Organic Roofs

Building Green and Organic Roofs hosted another crew of enthusiastic eco warriors in May, on the green roof training course we run with Brighton Permaculture Trust.

We had talks, project consultancy, green roofed bird house building, and tours of Madeira Drive historic green wall, Crew Club wildflower green roof and Level Cafe green roof in the centre of town.

Here are some pictures – they speak for themselves!

We are planning something even bigger and better next time, so watch this space.

 

The future of greening is plastic

I was struck by this news release from Scotscape this week.  A ‘hybrid’ green wall involving artificial and natural plants. The future of greening is plastic. Isn’t it?

 

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I remember over 10 years ago, the Argus reporting about a planned green roof at Brighton University in terms of the roof being special because it was ‘painted green’. An innocent mistake, but are we really advocating artificial plants as part of our towns and cities? Ever felt the disappointment of sniffing a convincing flower arrangement on a restaurant table?

Let’s not pretend this is real greening. We need more, not less nature in our towns and cities. More plants, habitats and natural landscapes to deliver multiple benefits – to improve our mental wellbeing, for wildlife, rainwater management, urban cooling and even sniffing.

It’s not just walls that are at threat from artificial greenery.  Research in 2011 revealed that 3,000 hectares (12 sq miles) of garden vegetation had been lost over eight years in the UK – which amounts to more than two Hyde Parks a year. Much, if not all, of this loss was down to decking, concreting over gardens, and the use of artificial grass –  with consequences for nature and urban flood risk and the disposal of recyclable waste. Praise be to muddy knees, worms, blackbirds, and daisy chains (John Terry take note).

Scotscape, by the way, do do some great stuff – ivy screens, for example, and wire trellis for climbing plants. Shame about the plastic.

Talk on history of Brighton & Hove parks and gardens: 17 May

Coming up on Wednesday next week, an evening talk on the history of Brighton & Hove’s parks and gardens.

Robert Jeeves of Step Back in Time, Queens Road, Brighton will give an illustrated talk from his extensive old photographic and postcard collection on

Brighton and Hove Parks and Gardens 1890 to 1960
Wednesday 17th May, 7.00pm
The Temple, Brighton and Hove High School, Montpelier Road, Brighton
Limited parking available.
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Charles Barry’s scheme for Queens Park, 1834. Reproduced by kind permission of Howlett-Clarke, solicitors, Brighton.

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Historic stereo images of Queen’s Park, Brighton

Organised by Brighton & Hove Heritage Commission.

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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