Launch of The GRO Green Roof Code for the UK

January 27, 2011 at 10:57 pm

By Jeff Sorrill

New industry supported code is set to raise the bar for green roofs in the UK, thanks to European funding.   Green roofs have become more common features in our towns and cities over the last five years, but maximum environmental benefits have not always been realised, due to a lack of UK specific guidance.  In response to this, the Green Roof Organisation (GRO) has developed and launched a UK code, with LIFE+ funding, secured by Groundwork Sheffield.

Published on January 18 of this year, The GRO Green Roof Code provides clear and practical guidance on green roof best practice in the UK.  Funded by the European Commission LIFE+ fund and Groundwork Sheffield, The GRO Code is also financially supported by the Homes and Communities Agency, The Green Roof Centre,, and is facilitated by the National Federation of Roofing Contractors  (NFRC).

GRO is an industry forum facilitated by the  NRFC, and  GRO also acts as the technical arm of, founded by Dusty Gedge.  Members include industry providers, government bodies, researchers and awareness raising organisations.   GRO’s remit is to establish guidelines for all parts of the green roof design, specification, installation and maintenance process.

Groundwork Sheffield is a federation of local trusts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which help people and organisations make changes in order to create better neighbourhoods, build skills and job prospects and to live and work in a greener way.   Groundwork Sheffield gained €914,213 in funding from LIFE+ to develop the UK code of best practice.

The LIFE+ programme is the European Union’s funding instrument for the environment.  The general objective of LIFE is to contribute to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental policy and legislation by co-financing pilot or demonstration projects with European added value.   LIFE began in 1992 and  since then,  LIFE has co-financed some 3,104 projects across the EU, contributing approximately €2.2 billion to the protection of the environment.

NFRC’s Chief Executive, Ray Horwood CBE, says:

“A UK specific code of best practice is long overdue, and the launch of The GRO Green Roof Code is welcome news for everyone involved in the green roof industry. By adhering to best practice, the numerous benefits of green roofs can be maximised, and the long term sustainability of green roofs ensured. The GRO Green Roof Code will set the benchmark for the industry.”

As with other green roof guidance around the world, The GRO Green Roof Code has its foundations firmly set in the German FLL Guidelines.  However, only the most technical of data needs to be traced back to the FLL – Forschungsgesellschaft Landschaftsentwicklung Landschaftbau  (Landscape Research, Development and Construction Society).  The GRO Code aims to provide the vast majority of the information required by most designers, specifiers, installers and maintenance providers.

Read more at  our The Green Roof Centre’s Green Roof Code page here, and download The GRO Green Roof Code here (PDF).

~ Jeff Sorrill

Jeff is Centre Manager of The Green Roof Centre, in Sheffield, England.   Contact him at:   Tel: 01142 227131,    or visit The Green Roof Centre.

The Green Roof Centre is the National Centre of Excellence for green roofs.   Based in Sheffield, The Green Roof Centre was founded by the University of Sheffield, Groundwork Sheffield, and the four surrounding local authorities (Barnsley, Doncaster, Sheffield and Rotherham).   Our primary aim is to promote green roof development and implementation through research, education, demonstration, information and technology transfer.

The University of Sheffield is the leading research establishment in this field in the UK, with an unrivalled range of expertise in the green roof arena.   It has developed an international reputation for excellence in green roof studies.   The Green Roof Centre operates with partners nationally to demonstrate the potential of green roof uptake in the UK.


2010 Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design

October 28, 2010 at 12:41 pm

2010 marks the  fourth year of our  “Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall  Design” – download the Press Release here.  

Compiled by our Design Editor, Haven Kiers, and I, this year’s list of categories represents amazing examples of  both vegetated roofs and walls since the concept of “Building Integrated Greenery”  knows no boundaries,  and in fact blurs the distinction  between  a structure’s various planes.

As usual, we search the globe for the new and newsworthy and look for common threads among the most-often times spectacular and  uncommon, projects.   Our favorite sites are Inhabitat, designboom ®, ArchDaily, JETSON GREEN… just to name a few – and we also get project news from the designers themselves, as well as members of organizations such as Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, the International Green Roof Association,, etc., in addition to our own readers!

The focus of the Top 10 Trends of 2010 illustrates global shifts in thinking about how we can manipulate the built environment through design to lessen its burden on the Earth’s climate, energy, and natural resources, and increase the overall productivity of our built structures.   Showcased are simply stunning and important  built projects, those that are still on the boards, and several amazing, beyond forward-thinking conceptual designs that hopefully will materialize in the future!

Without further ado:

Top 10 List

10) Client Specific “˜Boutique’ Greenroofs
We’ve had this category each year, and it’s kind of a catch all for projects that are too unique to fit into their own category

9) Green Sporting Venues
From construction jobs, to parking, ticket sales, and concessions revenue, sporting venues bring in big bucks to a community and can be the lifeblood of a local economy. It should come as no surprise, then, that the trend in sporting venue construction is high end and green to attract an upscale clientele while simultaneously bringing in government subsidies. New baseball   & soccer stadiums, basketball arenas, tennis centers and even Olympic stadiums are sporting greenroofs these days.

8)  A Symbiosis of Ecology & Architecture
It’s not enough to just design beautiful buildings any more. These days, structures need to be aesthetically stunning, sustainable. and more. Form still follows function, but we’re finding ways to design with nature, not just on top of it.

7) Greenwalls as Public Art
We’ve seen greenwalls used to advertise products, feed the homeless, and remove particulate matter from the air, but what about greenwalls as objects of art, themselves? Vegetated murals are the newest form of public art.

6) Daylighting Greenroofs
If there’s anything we’ve learned from the green building movement, it’s the importance of natural light to reduce energy consumption, connect people to the outdoors, and improve employee & student satisfaction and productivity. Pairing skylights and windows with greenroofs is the natural next step in sustainable design.

5) The Greening of Latin America
European, Asian and North American greenroofs have hogged the spotlight for long enough. Slowly but steadily, greenroofs and greenwalls have been sprouting up throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America – all with a unique, local Latin flair.

4) Building Integrated Greenery for a Cooler Planet
We all know that vegetation helps cool buildings, and designers are taking it to a new level. Building Integrated Greenery – greenwalls and greenroofs – are increasingly integrated with sustainable building design to naturally manufacture cool air that reduces the need for energy hogs like air conditioners.

3) Biomimicry as Eco-literacy & Holistic Design
Designers are increasingly taking the lead from Mother Nature by creating structures that operate like natural organisms. Biomimicry informs the public by incorporating principles from the natural world into the design and function of buildings.

2)   Megacities & Redevelopment Enveloped in Green
What more can  we say?   Designers and city planners are thinking bigger and greener!

1) Tower Oases as Skyrise Urban Ag
Last year our #1 category was “Towers of Power” – Mega Vertical Structures Linking Earth and Skywhich blurred the distinction between greenroofs and greenwalls.

For 2010 we continue on that theme – burgeoning populations and rapid urbanization are making vertical urban agriculture hot these days.   Most of these visionary projects are still in the conceptual phase, but with the support of governments and the exploding imagination of designers, building integrated agriculture is well on its way to becoming a towering urban reality.

I presented the 2010 Top 10  a couple of weeks ago in Mexico City at the WGIN World Green Roof Congress (an awesome conference – more on that later!), and will be presenting it next week in Singapore for the 2010 International Skyrise Greenery Conference, and both Haven and I will be hand for the 8th Annual 2010 Green Roof and Green Wall Conference – CitiesAlive! in Vancouver, B.C. in December.     Because of the time limitations for presenting at these conferences, ranging from 20 – 30 minutes, we can only show 4 or 5 representative projects in each category, although there are many more out there!

You can view the 2009, 2008 and 2007 PowerPoint presentations of the Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof Design,  and we’ll be posting  our 2010 PowerPoint in mid December, where we’ll post additional projects, too, for our newly titled “Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design.”

Happy Greening!

~ Linda V. and Haven K.


Visit Ed and Christine next week at the 2010 World Green Roof Congress in London!

September 10, 2010 at 3:32 pm is once again a Media Sponsor for the 2010 World Green Roof Congress in London on September 15 and 16, 2010, and we’re excited about the impressive line-up of renowned, international speakers set to deliver an outstanding program addressing Green Roofs for a Changing Climate.  

Aramis and I made it to the inaugural Congress in 2008, but unfortunately, a heavy travelling schedule this year didn’t make it possible for us to attend.   Although we won’t have a booth at this year’s Congress, two of our Contributing Editors, Ed Snodgrass and Christine Thuring, will be in attendance.   Please find them to say hello; it’s great to meet face-to-face!

Ed Snodgrass will be speaking at 11:25 on Wednesday, September  15 when he’ll present “Green Roofs and Ecosystem Services – How plant and media choices can change our urban environment for the better.”

Keynote speakers include:
– Tom Liptan, City of Portland, Oregon, USA
– Ed Snodgrass, Green Roof Plants, USA
– Dusty Gedge,, UK
– Stephen Brenneisen, Zurich University of Applied Science, Switzerland
– Nigel Dunnett, University of Sheffield, UK

Be sure also to check out our latest guest feature article, Green Roofs for a Changing Climate – The 2nd London World Green Roof Congress, by Dusty Gedge, Director of

Read more from the 2010 World Green Roof Congress organizers,  our colleagues at CIRIA and

Happy Greening in London and beyond!

~ Linda V.

GPW: Asphof Hen Unit

April 17, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Our Greenroof Project of the Week (GPW) is the rustic extensive 1,000 m ²   “Asphof Hen Unit” greenroof in the beautiful countryside of Rothenfluh, Switzerland.   A conglomeration of seven medieval villages, Rothenfluh is a picturesque municipality in the district of Sissach in the canton of Basel-Country in northern Switzerland.

Aramis and I had the pleasure of visiting the lovely area in September, 2005  where I presented my paper “An International Call for The Greenroof Projects Database” at the first  The World Green Roof Congress held at the University of Basel,  Switzerland.   The Congress was co-organized by ZHAW – Zurich University of Applied Sciences Institute of Environment and Nature Resources, Centre Urban Greening, Competence Centre Green Roofs (Hochschule Wädenswil) – and the  International Green Roof Association (IGRA),  among others,  and the tours were led by graduate students and volunteers from ZHAW/The World Green Roof Congress.

We jumped at the opportunity to join one of the local tours that encompassed “Green Roof Week” from September 12 -17.   Congress attendees had a choice of a wide-ranging excursion program ranging  from one to three-day trips, “showing examples of good practice on famous green roofs in Switzerland and the surrounding area of Basel.”    We opted for a one-day tour and wonderful host and guide was  Nathalie Baumann, MSc / Biogeograph, ZHAW Research Associate, who specializes in the ground-breeding Lapwing bird population nesting atop various brown and greenroofs in the area.

We visited six very different applications, from one of Nathalie’s research sites atop a huge pharmaceutical manufacturer to the largest solar roof installation with greenroofs in Switzerland, to a greenroofed cattle barn and this organic chicken farm with two greenroofed structures, where we enjoyed a fantastic Swiss lunch, too.

The owner, Matthias Eglin, really wanted to tread lightly upon the land in terms of blending the large chicken barn/coop into the landscape and providing  a literally cooler environment for his 2,000 organically-raised chickens.  

He turned to renown biodiversity researcher Dr. Stephan Brenneisen of Hochschule Wädenswil (also the coordinator of the  World Green Roof Congress and president  of the  Green Roof Competence Centre), who served as project consultant for the Canton Basle Rural’s Nature and Countryside Protection Commission – see the federal service project on ZHAW’s website.   Their intent was to establish  an extremely  low maintenance xeric landscape  on top of an agricultural utility building and have it eventually naturalize  to mimic the surrounding terrain.

So in 2002 they constructed the Asphof Hen Unit using inexpensive local materials – so local in fact that they harvested and shred Miscanthus sinensis (China grass/reed) from Mathias’ own property to serve as an inexpensive lower substrate and water retention layer.   They excavated  5 cm of loamy humus topsoil from their former orchard area and used it  as a free growing medium.   The annual Phacelia tanacetifolia (Lacy Phacelia), used extensively in Europe both as a cover crop and as bee forage, was included in the grass  seed to break up the soil mix and act as erosion control.   Other herbs were included in the roof as well.   Here’s the roof, below,  in 2002:

And below, three years later, in 2005:

The  natural temperature control reduces the heat by up to seven degrees in the summer (relative to outside temperatures), due to cooling effects of evaporation, resulting in more stress-free chickens!   When we were there it was fun to watch them roam freely about the property, hopping from one roof to the next.

Getting up to the roof took some care and trust that people were holding the ladder on both ends – and as usual I didn’t have the best shoes on..but it was fun!   And it was very grassy:

The second 1,200 sf greenroof is found on the Hay Shed Greenroof, constructed in 2005,  which shelters hay rolls used on the farm property.

Christine Thuring served as a Congress team member and guide on one of the other tours during the Congress.   Co-founder of Green Roof Safari (and Chlorophyllocity and, of course, one of our contributing editors), along with Jörg Breuning (of Green Roof Service, LLC)  she has lead tours here since, as well.   Green Roof Safari offers special access to the European greenroof industry with custom designed tours with multi-lingual guides specializing in highlighting current and historical trends in policy, research and design for the areas visited.

Christine shared these two photos with me and informed me that the roof continues to be monitored, especially the soil substrate and how it has developed with time – Dr. Brenneisen above with the group, and measuring the roof soil below:

Christine succinctly says of the project:

“The Asphof chicken shed demonstrates innovative, economic, simple success.” ~ Christine Thuring

So successful that they don’t even mow it – the roof meadow acts as a self-sustaining system, fully integrated into the landscape.

If you’re interested in seeing this project, you’re in luck.   Now in its sixth year Ltd will be again partnering with Hochschule Wädenswil for their famous “Swiss Green Roof Tour 2010” which  will be held on May 6-7, 2010.    You’ll not only get  Dr. Stephan Brenneisen, but also the indomitable Dusty Gedge, Director of, both of whom are internationally recognized for their work on greenroofs and biodiversity.   Much of the focus of the tour is how research in Switzerland has developed an approach to green roofing that has biodiversity at the heart of their design.

From roofs designed for lizards, to those that have been designed for rare bees, beetles and spiders, this year the tour includes visits to roofs where Swiss researchers are studying ground nesting birds – and to where chickens are happy, too, on the ground and on the roofs.

~ Linda V.