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.


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.

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.


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.


Huge new undulating green roof in Paris

We have a mini version of this in Whitehawk – very mini – and a similar sized roof over the water treatment works in Peacehaven. But at 650 feet long this Parisian roof/park is huge, and way more interesting ecologically.

Part lab, part park, the stunning Espace Bienvenüe was designed by Pargade Architectes and is part of nearly seven hectares that consitutes the green belt of a huge learning center.

A building and a park all in one, the Espace Bienvenüe provides a major recreational landscaped garden for Paris

The green roof of Peacehaven Wastewater Treatment Works is one of the largest in Europe

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!

Big Winner! We’ve awarded the prize for the Big Nature drawing competition

At this year’s Big Nature event, Building Green ran a competition for kids.

Aimed at getting people to think about the possibilities of green buildings, entrants were asked to draw and colour an imaginary eco house. Green roofs and other features were encouraged, otherwise it was up to the imagination of the artist!

We had some great entries, but the one we selected was by 14 year old Tamsin from Brighton, who drew an earth sheltered eco-home, complete with built-in animal dens.

Earth sheltered eco-home by Tamsin, age 14

Earth sheltered eco-home by Tamsin, age 14

The prize was a bird box with a green roof, sponsored by Organic Roofs, and a tour of the Organic Roofs HQ in Shoreham.

Lee and I presented the prize on Saturday. Well done Tamsin!

Organic Roofs and Building Green presenting the Big Nature drawing competition prize to Tamsin

Organic Roofs and Building Green presenting the Big Nature drawing competition prize to Tamsin

Competition winner Tamsin on the green roof at Organic Roofs HQ, Shoreham

Competition winner Tamsin on the green roof at Organic Roofs HQ, Shoreham

Shortly after we got this photo through of the bird box installed in the garden. That’s a lucky bird.

Green roofed bird box installed in a garden

Green roofed bird box installed in a garden