How much should we focus on green roof biodiversity?

  • How much should we focus on green roof biodiversity?

  • Doctor Anna

    November 2, 2020 at 11:04

    How much should we focus on green roof biodiversity? I think this question depends very much on where you are. In, for example, Austria, the situation is very different from the e.g. the US. This is because people install green roofs for different reasons (generally) in these two countries.

    I must say that Austria is far, far ahead when it comes to environmental decisions, and thus the biodiversity topic. Also, Austria has a long history of traditional green roofs that the US does not to the same extent.

    I sometimes feel that people get locked into certain topics in a rather demagogic way and I feel this could result in a reduction in the green roof install-rates. This is an article from the US point of view and I very much get the point for the US (as I have solid experience of the US market). However, maybe the same arguments would not hold true for e.g. Sweden, or Austria (check out the organization Grun-Statt-Grau in Austria – GREAT STUFF!)

  • Johannes Wikstrom

    March 29, 2021 at 20:37

    I think this is an important question. Are we trying to remake nature, or just survive the inferno we have created?

    And where do we draw the line for diversity? Plants , insects, fungi, mammals, the nudist couple nextroof?

    As a northener I’d like seasonal changes. The beavis and buttheadisque “how green is it in winter huh-huh?” gets a little worn after the first thousand times heard. And a monoculture often is rather dull other than in it’s prime.

    As the buildings reach for the skies, we are huddlibg in darkness.

    Basically we are creating a termite society, lifting the soilsurface to the skyskrapers and leaving us hiding below. Have we created a new terra inferna maybe? With a new green coat for every building.

    Basically diversity thrives on diversity. A plateau is a plateau even if you cover it in 4 different sedum and call it charlie.

    Then when you want to bring in stuff you could find in a natural landscape, like shrubs and forests and topography they say the problem is weight, well, not entirely true, sayeth the man from the land of ice and snow. Cost is the issue. Oh. And probably something to do with earthquakes.

    Summa summarum I am for biodiversity. But there’s a lot of work to be done. I kinda like the story about the fox spotted on a green roof in London. Nature will find a way.

  • Johannes Wikstrom

    April 27, 2021 at 05:58

    As I see it, architectual design and engineering needs to evolve into a greener shade of grey. We will always have retrofitting for existing buildings, where the structure will dictate what can be done.

    I personally would like the roofs to be diverse, but as a horticulturalist I also see the problem in finding suitable plants, that also won’t add weight growing and changing.

    Looking at maintenance, it is always more difficult to fight nature in a monoculture or with just a few species.

    Basically the carrying structure of a building needs to be designed with greenery in mind to allow biodiversity in shape and size. It can be done, it should be done. Also the importance of ‘untouched’ green corridors around the buildings should get a status as part of the infrastructure, and not as some lesser waste of space area.

    But it isn’t enough, as the buildings grow higher, we need to bring the living landscape closer to God.

    Btw Anna, i found your results regarding Prunus padus interesting. I think if you think about how a swamp develops there might be some change. You need hills and mounds (EA Poe would probably write a repetition “beautiful rounded hills, and moist graves of pleasure”) . A plan takes seed on highgrounds in the dry season, first grow into a turf, then small saplings will seed, living and dying with the water flow until the graveyard becomes a hill. Here the the trees will rise, and their roots will dig deep, plants with fast rootgrowth excelling as they can adapt higher more rapidly(the amazon is another story). So with Prunus padus, or any tree in our climate, I think the hill and mound (with possibly a burialground for water) is the key, the lock and the way forward. Alnus would have been another choice, or Salix (but they allergize and drop twigs everywhere so they are not pop).

    Random thoughts in the morning

  • Doctor Anna

    April 27, 2021 at 07:59

    Thanks for the thorough answer. I fully agree to that buildings should be designed with green Infrastructure in mind. However, this also mean an increase in carbon footprint – often a significant increase.

    Another thing with with extensive green roofs is that an accumulation of organic material virtually never happens. Exceed 10% and microbial respiration rates increase and you will suffer volumetric losses and the roof becomes a CO2 source. It’s a very fine blanche. Also, too high organic content often leads to fire risks on extensive green roofs.

  • Johannes Wikstrom

    April 27, 2021 at 14:00

    Well, the question was focused on the need for biodiversity, so that was my approach. Naturally it will come with a cost, this is something we will always struggle with, the eternal question where the red pen will make a scratch.

    In many places I think that biomimicry might even be a better constructional solution than living green, depending on what the goal is, stormwater management, combating the heat island effect or architectural design.

    Oh yes. The joys of fireloads. This is familiar to us.😂

  • Doctor Anna

    April 12, 2021 at 09:38

    I agree with you that we should use native plants as much as possible. However, I feel that we might lose out on a lot of good green solutions if we only focus on the so-called biodiverse roofs that require deep profiles that are heavy, as those will have a lower probability of being built due to construction costs and structural load reasons.

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