The Newsletter of
Green roofs for urban wildlife
Does the redevelopment
of brownfield land mean that urban wildlife has to suffer? Conservationists
have quite literally been looking upwards, thinking about the possibilities
that the roofs of tower blocks and other tall buildings might offer wildlife
When an area is cleared for later redevelopment, wild plants flora often return bringing insects, birds and other wildlife in their wake. Thus, ostensibly brownfield sites can provide refuge to many rare and threatened species.
Londons first green roofs were launched in 2003 in Deptford. The Laban Dance Centre and the Creekside Nature Conservation Centre were opened with rooftops designed especially to preserve the habitat of the black redstart, a bird which can thrive in densely built-up urban environments but not in unimaginatively 'revived' areas.
Dusty Gedge, a London based campaigner, received the Andrew Lees Memorial Award for his success in persuading developers to install hundreds of thousands of square metres of 'green roofs' on hundreds of feet up in London's Canary Wharf. Nesting boxes for a dozen swifts have already been installed at the top of the 655ft Canada Square tower, and two sand martin nesting boxes have been put up on docksides. One experimental green roof is covering Chevron Texaco's building and another is under way on the Northern Trust block.
Green roofs aren't just good for birds and insects; they're good for people, too. Green roofs soak up rain water, and thus help prevent flooding during heavy rain. They also improve local air quality and, by acting as an extra layer of insulation, green roofs conserve energy, cutting heating and air conditioning bills.
So, what about Birmingham? The new private finance initiative (PFI) hospital at Edgbaston is required to incorporate a green roof: perhaps it will be the first of many in the City. Not long ago, Sophie Birkett, an employee of British Waterways in the Midlands, was enthusing about the potential of suitably surfaced roofs to provide nesting habitat for the black redstart. Could this be the start of a new era, when British Waterways' canals are home to black redstarts and the economic revival of Birmingham actually enhances wildlife and biodiversity rather than jeopardising it?