Thursday, 4 December 2008

UK minor player in green roof construction

By Colin van Hoek

The United Kingdom (UK) isn’t a big player when it comes to green roof development. That’s stated by Jeff Sorrill, manager at the Green Roof Centre in Sheffield.

With stunning numbers, Germany and the United States (US), each year increase their surface of green roofs. In 2001 alone, Germany build 13,5 million m² of green roofs. “It’s the lack of tax benefits and legislation which are keeping the UK down”, says Sorrill.

“Germany and the US both have a long history of green roof construction. Many German cities have legislation which requires them to install green roofs on all developments”, Sorrill continues.

He thinks legislation could also be the solution for the UK. Although he warns that it has to be thought through, to avoid poor and cheap solutions.

Sorrill doesn’t think it has anything to do with geographical differences: “Green roofs have more benefits than some people know. It works on rain water holding, it can reduce energy, improve air quality and isolate.”

Daniel Goedbloed, green roofs project manager in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), agrees with Sorrill. He says that even though a place is hot, or if it rains a lot green roofs can always be installed. “There are no restrictions at all. In Australia there are a lot of green roofs, because it keeps the houses cool. In Scandinavia it helps to keep the dwellings warm”, says Goedbloed.

But both Goedbloed and Sorrill agree that the UK can without a doubt benefit from having more green roofs. According to both men the roofs can be very useful in preventing floods like the ones in the winter of 2000/2001.

The only place in the UK where there are a significant number of green roofs is London. At this moment almost 100,000 m² is realised.

Goedbloed understands why London is the place where green roofs seem to be most popular: “Although you can have green roofs as well in the countryside as in a city, people living in cities are turning green roofs more to account.”

His explanation is that in the countryside people have more nature around them. “Let’s not forget a lot of people also use green roofs as a gardens, which will happen more in a crowded city like London.”

But what should the UK aim for? Private use on dwellings or companies with a lot of surface? “Green roofs are equally available to individuals as companies, my personal view though is that there will be more meters of domestic green roofs in 10 years than commercial.”

He bases his view on the fact that there is “a great deal of interest from the general public.” According to Sorrill the UK is a “country of gardeners”, therefore "every new opportunity to put plants somewhere will be embraced."

The last couple of years solar panels have been the eco-friendly construction in a lot of countries. The manager from the green roof centre doesn’t think green roofs will make solar panels less popular: “There are significant differences between solar panels and green roofs, you can’t compare them.”

Green roofs even make solar panels more efficient when designed to do so, they complement each other rather than fight for space on a roof.”

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