Going for green

Peter Hughes of EverEdge discusses the rising trend of green roofs in UK developments, and the many benefits they can provide.

Green roofs are nothing new. People have been planting gardens in every nook and cranny from the moment humanity first discovered the joy of gardening. In cities across the world such as Paris, apartment blocks are filled with every flower, fruit and vegetable imaginable growing.

In urban locations, where space at ground level has always come at a premium, people have often looked for ways to indulge their love of green spaces. A green roof can supplement traditional green spaces without impacting or disrupting urban infrastructure. They also have a positive impact on the pollution levels in urban areas by improving air quality, and encourage greater biodiversity in cities by providing habitats for insects and birds.

More recently, there has been a large increase in enquiries for steel edging and planters to create green spaces on the roofs and terraces of new build apartment blocks, offices and private properties. These spaces vary in size from a balcony with room for a single planter to 20 storey apartment blocks with space for a large communal garden. Green space seems to have gone from being a luxury in the city to a requirement.

Low maintenance planting areas are often the order of the day for office blocks, such as a simple row of planters that create a peaceful retreat for a company’s employees. In residential developments, however, a more intensive design is often employed. This can mean incorporating shrubs, trees, walkways and seating areas, helping to create an oasis in the middle of even the most built up of cities.

Often a requirement for many customers, low maintenance products are important. Because of this, corten steel and hot dip galvanised steel are often, although not always, specified ahead of a painted product. Corten steel is known as a ‘weathering steel’ – meaning the material is designed to rust, but not break down, making it a great finish for roofs. Once the rusty patina has formed, the rust becomes stable, and the planters require very little looking after. Protecting steel by hot dip galvanising it – covering the steel in a layer of zinc – also gives the desired effect of making it very easy to look after.

Both these finishes are simple and cost-effective, and can be combined easily with modern or traditional designs. As a material, steel is incredibly strong, which means that a thinner gauge can be used. This helps to reduce weight and maximise the space available for planting. Steel as thin as 3 mm is usually adequate for use in roof gardens.

The opportunity to beautify a building by either retrofitting an old building or designing in a green space on a new building is reason enough for many to go ahead with a project. However, the economic benefits of green roofs may be what persuades others to accept the initial outlay required. Some of the many benefits of a green roof include reducing energy costs by mitigating thermal loading in warmer months, and increasing the longevity of the roof by blocking UV rays. Combining these economic gains with the obvious environmental benefits of more green spaces has certainly led to the green roof becoming a ‘must-have’ for buyers.

Green roofs, although they have been around for hundreds or even thousands of years, seem to have suddenly caught the attention of housebuilders like never before. In the face of ever expanding urbanisation and with the ever growing need for new housing and offices, rooftops offer us a way to ensure we maintain our connection to the natural environment and help to protect our wildlife.

In the fast paced world in which we live, a little green oasis can give us the opportunity to stop, think and relax.

Peter Hughes is operations and marketing manager at EverEdge