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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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

A UK first at West Quay, Brighton Marina

The first ‘vegetated shingle’ green roofs in the UK are currently being built at the West Quay development at Brighton Marina Village.

West Quay is a significant development, with 853 flats. Green roofs are being established at each level by contractors Midgard for developer Brunswick.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Northfield – Sussex University’s sustainable student housing

We walked round the back of Stanmer Park today, to see the green roofs at Northfield, the campus extension of Sussex University.

Approaching Northfield student housing from Stanmer Park

Approaching Northfield student housing from Stanmer Park

Built between 2010 and 2013, the campus features a wide range of features to minimise its environmental impact and running costs. It’s location was controversial – north of the main campus, on farmland, and tucked right up against the South Downs National Park, a Local Nature Reserve and a Site of Nature Conservation Importance – so it particularly needed to blend in and demonstrate a sustainability ethos.

The complex has 272 secure bicycle parking spots (one for every three residents) and eight car parking spaces, four of which are for wheelchair users.

A number of energy-efficiency measures include green roofs (which increase insulation and provide greater biodiversity), low-energy lighting, double glazing and recycling facilities.

Several steep sloping green roofs are an obvious feature of Northfields student housing

15 steep sloping green roofs are an obvious feature of Northfields student housing

The development won a Green Apple Sustainability Award, and received a Breeam Excellent rating.

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However, there are problems with the green roofs, which are unusual in being pitched. They look like they are struggling and dying in places.

The planning application noted that “The use of green roofs will be beneficial in blending the development into the landscape from longer views and as an ecological compensation for developing an existing greenfield site.

But it also said “The green roof treatment to the buildings will, if successful, further minimise the visual impact of the buildings as well as providing additional habitat. Sedum roofs often dry out after 2/3 years so there is a concern that the oversown sedum treatment may be short lived and not be fully fit for purpose, and that a slightly deeper root run might provide a more effective substrate on which to establish a chalk downland type flora.”

Although the green roofs certainly do help the development blend into the surrounding countryside, it seems like the fears about the longevity of the Sedum have been realised. Elsewhere in Brighton & Hove failing green roofs have been successfully refurbished.

For example, green roofs have been part of the University of Brighton campus for some time. At the Checkland Building, green roofs have recently been restored following some initial problems with the planting and the limited amount of growing medium installed.

The Checkland Building has been environmentally designed, incorporating night time cooling, natural ventilation, and green roofs to insulate the building from heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer.  As the university sits within the South Downs, a recognised area of chalk grassland (calcareous), the creation of flower rich green roofs provides an important enhancement within the Checkland Building for invertebrates associated with such area.

The Huxley Building and Falmer Sports Centres also have green roofs – these have suffered similar problems to Checkland and have had to be refurbished. Organic Roofs have the contract for this work, and have refurbished the landmark Velo Cafe green roof at the Level in Brighton, which is now thriving.