Green Roofs and Living Walls are growing increasingly popular and are being implemented in developments of all kinds. Extensive research has identified numerous benefits of ‘external greening’ including increased water retention (lowering run-off from developments which can cause high flow and flooding issues), building and urban temperature regulation (heat retention in winter and a cooling effect in winter) leading to reduced energy use and costs, improved air quality (some types of vegetation also trap “PM10” pollutant particles) and improved aesthetics and health benefits including a greater sense of well- being for inhabitants, users and visitors. There is also potentially a significant ecological benefit to be achieved from these, particularly if care and attention is applied to choosing the correct mix and type of vegetation. Large areas of useful habitat for insects, birds and bats can be created by incorporating these features, which not only benefits the local ecosystem, but also increases the likelihood of planning approval.
Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire has implemented a green roof of 2.4ha with a tussock-type species rich grassland, specifically designed to provide suitable habitat for skylark (Alauda arvensis) These are ground-nesting birds that are of the uppermost conservation priority (UK red list). Post development monitoring will be a long-term process, but early signs look promising with multiple pairs of skylark successfully breeding in this newly created habitat.
Some UK developments are now including community food growing areas and wildlife garden spaces “for people to get together, encouraging community cohesion” and to “support local priorities for reducing health inequalities” (Building with Nature). These of course will also provide foraging opportunities for many species. Linear features running through developments are also desirable and are now often implemented, enabling connectivity with existing adjacent habitats, minimising fragmentation of valuable habitat. There seems to be a positive move towards a ‘green infrastructure-led’ approach to landscape and urban design where existing ecological and sustainability features are of central importance and are incorporated intelligently to create beautiful homes and spaces with minimal impact on existing wildlife, water systems and our natural resources.
Building with Nature:
https://www.buildingwithnature.org.uk/ (Case studies)
Living Roofs and Walls Technical Report: Supporting London Plan Policy: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/living-roofs.pdf
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