Bridging the Urban Jungle: Mile End Park

October 5, 2012 at 9:03 am

By  Steve Waller

It seems paradoxical, but often we define our cities by their green spaces.  Franklin Roosevelt once described forests as the lungs of the land, and parks play a similarly vital role in the lives of our cities. They offer both an oasis of calm, and a hub where people can meet and socialise.  As time goes on and an increasing proportion of the human race take up residence in cities, the way green spaces are designed and used is only becoming more important.

One of the biggest challenges civic planners will face will be arranging such areas so as to feel somehow free of the urban crush surrounding them.  With space at ceaselessly increasing premium in most conurbations, this is no easy thing to achieve.

One great example of a successful solution to this conundrum can be found in east London’s Mile End Park.  The park is pretty much linear, laid out in a narrow stretch for 3km.  As you’d expect for a piece of parkland of this size in such a densely populated area, the space is inevitably intersected by a major road, some minor roads and railway viaducts.  Obviously, having these interruptions wouldn’t do much to help the park in its “˜oasis of calm’ capacity.

Cutting through the sprawl, via flickr

A great get around to this fragmentation was devised by local resident Piers Gough of CZWG Architects, who designed the 25m wide “˜green bridge’ as part of the park’s regeneration at the start of the millennium.  Bridge engineering experts Mott MacDonald helped complete the structure (also known by locals as the “˜banana bridge’ owing to its yellow underside) which spans Mile End road at a height of 5.7m to allow any trucks among the 75,000 that pass under it each day to pass.

The bridge acts as an extension of the park and features 30 trees along the grassy length of the two 7m wide landscaped strips beside the walkway.  For those crossing the park, the impression of unbroken space is comparable to the affect of an infinity pool, as it blocks the view of the traffic below.

Crossing the bridge, via flickr

The bridge’s construction comprises a 150mm thick concrete deck which is laid out over permanent glass fibre reinforced plastic (these are the panels the form the aforementioned yellow underside) with support provided by 1380mm deep steel girders spanning 32.5m.  The bridge’s abutments use reinforced concrete and, due to the fact that London Underground tunnels run from the nearby station at a shallow depth, piled foundations were used to divert loads from potential stress points.

Spanning the road, via Wikipedia

Furthermore, the base of the bridge has been disguised using a green-tiled façade and turned into a retail space, with the rent paid by business to trade there going along way towards paying for the park’s upkeep.  A great example of cunning design and sustainable planning.

Flowing Green, via

Note: See more photos from CZWG Architects.

~  Steve Waller

Steve Waller  is an environmental blogger who takes an interest in all things green, architectural or otherwise.  For more of his thoughts visit his blog,

Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit 2011 Episode 25: Biodiversity and Greenroofs Panel Presentation

May 30, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Today we have the pleasure to air the panel presentation “Biodiversity and Greenroofs” with Christine Thuring, Nathalie Baumann, Gary Grant, and Dusty Gedge from our inaugural  2011 Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit on and our  GreenroofsTV channel on YouTube.

This is truly a panel of experts (and an exceptionally great bunch of people) on the subject of greenroofing and biodiversity issues!  We’ve known Dusty the longest, first corresponding with him in 2002 when he was the lead for the Black Redstart Action Plan with the London Biodiversity Partnership – read about it in his December 2003 Guest Feature Article “Wild Roofs:  Current research into green roofs and biodiversity in London.”

We finally met this outspoken, friendly, fast-talking Brit in 2003 in Chicago, for the first Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference & Trade Show (now CitiesAlive), and became fast friends.  I visited this former clown/punk rocker, now  ornithologist, eco-activist, living roof consultant/promoter and “tweeter extraordinaire” in London in 2003, and he took me out for a fast-paced day of greenroof hopping that I’ll never forget – read my January 2004 “Sky Gardens ~ Travels in Landscape Architecture” (the previous incarnation of this blog).

Since then, we’ve seen him at numerous conferences, and Dusty has also contributed “Green Roofs for a Changing Climate – The 2nd London World Green Roof Congress” from August 2010 and “ ~ A New Independent Green Roof Organisation for the UK” from November 2004.

He was also our very gracious host when Aramis and I attended the first World Green Roof Congress in London, presented by CIRIA in partnership with,  which  I blogged about in my  November 10, 2008 “An Awesome World Green Roof Congress in London! Day 1” (unfortunately, I never got around to blogging about the second day nor the awesome greenroof tour that followed!).  Dusty Gedge is simply a wonderful human being.

The always lovely Christine, above left with me, has been a long standing  editorial contributor to as The Student Editor (2004-present) where she writes a biannual newsletter “Green roofs on the curve” and answers student inquiries.  She is also a collaborator on many exclusives here on over the years, collectively known as “Christine’s Ramblings.”

She is very sharp, yet is a sweetheart of a person and also  a great friend of ours. We’ve had the pleasure of witnessing her growth and contributions to the greenroof world from a MSc. Horticulture student at the “Centre for Green Roof Research“ at Penn State (2005) to her current role as a PhD candidate at the University of Sheffield and various endeavors in between.  She is quite the world  traveler  and has reported for us about her visits to Paris, Germany, and India, and  London, among others.  Read my “The Swiss-Canadian Green Roof Gal: An Interview with Christine Thüring” of May 24, 2009 to learn a little more about her earlier years.

The Swiss  Nathalie Baumann, below right, is also very bright and  passionate  about her long time work with biodiversity, especially ground nesting birds on greenroofs, around the Basel area.  An research student and associate of Dr. Stephan Brenneisen from the  Zurich Applied University,  we first met her in September 2005 when we attended  The World Green Roof Congress (where I presented my paper “An International Call for The Greenroof Projects Database“) in Basel.  It was a great conference with lots of wonderful speakers, and afterwords we went on a greenroof tour guided by the soft-spoken and very knowledgeable Nathalie.

Over the years, Nathalie has always been very helpful about sharing her thoughts and experience with us, and so we knew she’d make a great addition to this panel.

Although we knew him the least, we were also thrilled to have another Brit, Gary Grant, on our panel.  We’ve known him as a great environmentalist and ecologist in the UK and Asia for years, and met him in London in 2008 at the  first World Green Roof Congress where he spoke about his work when he was with EDAW, UK.

Currently a director with the Green Roof Consultancy along with Dusty, Gary is also very personable and friendly, and loves to share his ideas and wealth of expertise with others.

Read more:

Christine Thuring has been working with green roofs since 2001 in various capacities, including installation, advocacy, research, consulting, design, and education.  Prior to green roofs, she worked as a field botanist and restoration ecologist.  With a BSc in Environmental Resource Science & Biology (Trent University) and MSc Horticulture (The Pennsylvania State University), Christine is currently doing her PhD in Landscape Ecology (University of Sheffield).  She co-founded Green Roof Safari, and offers consulting and technical translation through Chlorophyllocity.  She is a contributing editor on; she is the Student Editor and also writes Christine’s Ramblings.

Christine moderated the panel on “Biodiversity and Green Roofs” where she also spoke about her research on plant community development and ecological processes on extensive green roofs with time.

Nathalie Baumann (BioGeograph/Social Anthropologist) accomplished her Master’s of Sciences degree at the University of Basel, Switzerland.  Afterwards she worked on different projects of NGO’s like WWF Switzerland in the context of River Ecology, Biodiversity Assessment, Urban Ecology and Ecology of ground nesting birds.  Since 2005 she has been the Research Associate of Dr. Stephan Brenneisen at the Competence Centre of the Institute Environment and Natural Resources of the Zurich Applied University in Wädenswil, Switzerland.  One of her main topics is the research project: Ecological Compensation of Roofs: Vegetation and Ground Nesting Birds (e.g. investigating on the success of broods, improving therefore green roof design, etc.).

Nathalie spoke about “Green Roofs / Natural Roofs = Biodiverse Habitats and Ecological Compensation in Urban Space: 15 Years of Experience in Switzerland.”

Dusty Gedge is a green roof campaigner and designer, who has actively promoted green roofs in the UK since 1997.  He has designed a number of seminal roofs and help develop the London Green Roof Policy.  He is also the current President of the established three PhD studies on green roof research and has a particular interest in biodiversity on green roofs.  He is also a writer, blogger and sometimes TV presenter.  Dusty is co-author of Small Green Roofs: Low-Tech Options for Greener Living, 2011 and DIY Guide to Green & Living Roofs, among other publications.  In 2004 Dusty co-founded, a non-profit organisation established to promote, advise upon and seek research into green roofs and similar structures within the context of urban and rural regeneration.

Dusty spoke about “Designing and Working for Biodiversity on Green Roofs for Over 10 Years.”

Gary Grant is an independent ecologist with 30 years of experience of ecological survey and assessment, habitat creation and restoration, green infrastructure planning and site design and management.  He works closely with built-environment professionals encouraging them to use the ecosystem services approach.  Gary began work with the London Wildlife Trust in the 1980s and moved into consultancy in 1989, designing his first green roof in 1992.  He wrote Green roofs and façades, 2006.  Until 2009, he was a Director at AECOM Design + Planning working on large scale planning projects like the London 2012 Olympic Park, amongst others.  Gary’s current emphasis is on green infrastructure planning and climate change adaptation projects, as well as the design of building-integrated vegetation (green roofs and living walls).

Gary spoke about “My First Biodiverse Green Roof in 1992, Considerations for Planning and Design and Some Thoughts on the Future.”

In the  “Biodiversity and Greenroofs”  Panel Presentation,  original research and unique experiences were discussed, from field work upwards to bigger picture perspectives, as well as corresponding experiences with legislation on urban nature conservation.

Nathalie Baumann speaks to her six years working on ground-nesting birds in Switzerland and the ecological compensation value that green roofs offer in this regard.  Christine Thuring speaks to her current work on plant community development and soil formation on old extensive green roofs in Germany.  Gary Grant speaks about lessons learned from his first green roof in 1992, which happened to be designed for biodiversity, and offers insight into planning and designing green roofs, thoughts on the future and commentary on potentials and limitations.  Dusty Gedge speaks to his 10 years’ work towards conservation of invertebrate and avifauna in London, and of transferring the scientific results into legislation.

As with all the other panel presentations, a concurrent live Q & A accompanied the panel session during the actual  2011 Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit presentation with Christine Thuring, Nathalie Baumann, Gary Grant, and Dusty Gedge.  The commentary is no longer available for you to see – one reason to attend the upcoming Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit – so you can participate and put your two cents worth in!

Note: Due to technical and other difficulties from the second party vendor who filmed our illustrious panel of four, this video does not have our standard  2011 Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit branding, including the shots from Google Earth.  We are, however, planning on adding it soon to the four affected presentations so that they may be effectively identified for posterity.  Also, in this particular video the  second party vendor used the incorrect banner with the wrong date – our event was held on September 27 and 28, 2011, not in August.

Enjoy!  Visit to see the “Biodiversity and Greenroofs” Panel Presentation or click below:

Watch earlier videos on our exclusive Virtual Summit play list, or see the following Virtual Summit videos now available on our  GreenroofsTV channel on YouTube:

If you’re looking for an overview, make sure to see our  2011 Virtual Summit Highlights video (6:18) and our  2011 Virtual Summit Trailer (2:59).

Check back next week on GreenroofsTV for our 26th installment from the Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit 2011!

~ Linda V.”™s “This Week in Review” on GreenroofsTV: July 15, 2011

July 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Each week you can expect to learn What’s New here on through our “This Week in Review” video.  Here’s the transcript from July 15, 2011 from our daughter, Anjuli –  click on the photo below to see the video, or here.   Enjoy!

–   Hello, I’m Anjuli Velazquez and welcome to This Week in Review for this week, July 15th 2011 on  GreenroofsTV.

–  Project of the Week

–   Our project of the week is Allen & Overy LLP HQ, Bishop Square built in 2005 in London, England, United Kingdom. The new headquarters features a series of green tiers, with roof gardens overlooking the plaza below. The building was commissioned by Allen & Overy to satisfy the needs of a modern international law firm with strong environmental goals in mind. Completed in May of 2005, the area encompasses three landscaped greenroof terraces, and a fourth terrace is covered with photovoltaic cells to capture the sunlight and reduce the building’s energy output. These open green spaces on private terraces provide an area where their staff can relax and also help to reduce urban heating. Installed using a variety of Alumasc‘s specialist substrates, the greenroofs and roof gardens include sedum, cranberry bog, rock garden, heather and lavender. The company is the acknowledged UK market leader in living roofs, a specialist manufacturer of complete systems backed by a technical support service that is second to none. Also utilizing the ZinCo system, this building is just one of an enormous number of major projects throughout the country, offering as it does ecologically beneficial, aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sound green roof solutions.

– To learn more about Allen & Overy LLP HQ, Bishops Square,  click on our project of the week photo on our homepage.

What’s New“

–   Well, it’s official!   We’ve issued our “ is proud to announce the Greenroofs & Walls of the World Virtual Summit 2011 – Connecting the Planet + Living Architecture: People, Projects & Design!“ press release around the globe and to our 9,600 opt-in eNewsletter subscribers.   You can download it from the Homepage, and see how you can join us as an attendee, sponsor or exhibitor.   And we just launched our Virtual Summit website – just click on the Virtual Summit banner on the’s Homepage or following the link below:

Come here often as we update it with How-To Navigate videos, new Sponsor/Exhibitor company names and of course, the finalized Agenda.  And, Pre-Registration opens on July 20 – Pre-Register and Participate for a chance to win 2 iPad2s!

–   Check out Linda’s latest Sky Gardens Blog posts,’s “TWIR” for July 8th, 2011 and our GPW.

–   “Upcoming Events“

–   July 16th: there is a Green Living Technologies (GLTi) Green Wall Seminar in Ottawa, Canada.

–   July 18th-23rd: is the 2011 Perennial Plant Symposium in Atlanta, Georgia.

–   And make plans now for our Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit 2011 – Connecting the Planet + Living Architecture: People, Projects & Design conference and expo –  coming up next month, August 23rd & 24th online around the world! Remember, pre-registration opens July 20th!

–   “In the News“

–   Kathy Jentz of the SilverSpringPatch says “Green Roof Keeps United Therapeutics Cool.” Avi Halpert, Vice President of Corporate Real Estate at United Therapeutics called the greenroof their “little oasis” on top of their new headquarters building in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. Full of flowers, grasses, and lush foliage, the planting beds on the 5th, 6th and 7th floors of the building are full of movement and life. The National Capital Region Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council selected the United Therapeutics building as the recipient of its 2010 Award of Excellence for new Building Design and Construction. The Schick Goldstein Architect designed project was also awarded LEED Gold. The second building in the United Therapeutics headquarters complex is under construction currently, and will also have a green roof system along with other stormwater mitigation projects including a self-contained street tree box system. Across Spring Street, a playground and area is being designed to include a children’s garden for the new employee daycare.

–   Jessica Tasman-Jones of Auckland talks about how “Support grows for city rooftop garden.” She says that “green-fingered Aucklanders are championing a plan to turn part of an inner-city carpark into a community garden” and the plans are “rapidly gaining support.” According to the Karangahape Garden Facebook page which was set up last week to see what the public interest is like for creating a garden on the upper deck of the carpark, it now has over 1,000 fans. Residents believe Auckland has poor urban planning, especially for residential housing, and people are yearning for a connection to nature that the city is lacking. A community meeting will be held in a few weeks to discuss this “green” idea and you can find the Karangahape Garden Facebook page to be a part of this movement.

–   To learn more about these stories and new ones posted daily, go to our  In the News or  newslinks section of our website.

–   Have something you think we should know about and post on our website?   You can send us your green articles, videos and images to

–   Stay up-to-date with what’s going on at by subscribing to our  greenroofsTV channel on YouTube, following us on  Twitter, liking us on  Facebook and being a member of our network on  LinkedIn.

–  This has been This Week in Review for July 15th, 2011 on GreenroofsTV.  I’m Anjuli Velazquez and I’ll see you next week!

*This week’s episode is sponsored by  The Greenroof Directory, brought to you by*

Did we miss something?   We’d love to hear from you!

~ Linda V.

EcoBuild London (March 2011)

March 27, 2011 at 3:47 pm

From March 1-3, the London ExCeL hosted the world’s largest sustainable construction fair. It was the biggest EcoBuild yet, with over 50,000 visitors, over 1,300 suppliers, and more than 130 free seminar sessions featuring over 600 speakers.

Mate and verdant conversation with Roberto Ollett

I went with some colleagues for a day, and everyone agreed that the size of the show was nearly unmanageable, both in terms of time availability and mental/ physical endurance. Fortunately, my colleague Roberto Ollett of Eudaimon shared some of his newly acquired (yerba) mate with me, which is very high in caffeine.

Having won the Bristol City Council Public Art & Urban Regeneration commission, Eudaimon is radically reinterpreting the meaning of ‘public art’ by creating a site that will engage biodiversity, urban ecology and community involvement to a derelict part of Bristol. See website for more info. How perfect to share a social beverage (from South America) while discussing a collaboroative socio-ecological greening project!

Entering the massive ExCel to EcoBuild

Chelsea College's Speedo-Willow design

Once inside the trade show, some highlights for me included the launch of the 2011 Integrated Design Habitats competition, a Speedo-woven willow tunnel and herb wall from Chelsea College of Art & Design, and the presence of nature conservation organizations like the Wildlife Trust, Bug Life, Natural England.

On a personal note, the Swiss booth tickled my homesick taste-buds not only with Frey chocolates but also with Basler Läckerlis! Yummmm and happeeeeeeeee!

Some brand-new products were launched at EcoBuild 2011, like:
  • ICS Heat Pumps: the latest in DeLonghi’s inverter-driven heat pump technology
  • EMMVEE Photovoltaics: a new range of mono- and polycrystalline solar modules suitable for use in grid and off-grid applications
  • Wind Turbine: the Evance R9000 wind turbine was the fist and is currently the only 5kW wind turbine to receive full MCS accreditation, making it eligible for the UK Feed-In Tariff scheme
  • Photovoltaic energy roof system: IKO Solar launched two new systems: flexible strips (which are adhered to a roofing membrane), and a cylindrical system (which, when placed loosely on the roof, benefits from additional reflectance from the surface of the waterproofing).
  • Cyclepods: the new Streetpod secures bike frame and both wheels with a single lock.
  • Wood fibre insulation: new natural wood and hemp fibre insulation and construction solutions which provide both thermal and acoustic insulation
  • Energy efficient timber house: the new generation of such houses presented by Stommel Haus

Living architecture at EcoBuild

In terms of green roofs and living walls, such events provide tangible representation of how living architecture fits into the greater building sector. It’s humbling to realize what a small niche we fill. But hey, someone’s gotta do it!

At EcoBuild, all the component sectors of the living architecture industry (substrate, systems, ecology, etc.) held just a tiny sliver of the show. The companies and organizations in attendance were nicely represented, however. Blackdown Horticultural always put on a good show with their big and welcoming green spaces and impressive slopes. Alumasc and Optigreen had big booths and smart-looking business people ready to answer all questions. Shire Mineral had a little booth and many personable visitors. A number of living wall system providers were present, too, providing welcome towers and walls of greenery within the show.

Launch of the 2011 Integrated Design Habitats Competition (IDHC)

The IDHC “[puts] biodiversity at the heart of the built environment for the benefit of all” and celebrates design which accomplishes this. Organised by RESET and, the IHDC was devised to provide a forum for visionaries and innovators in order to design better, more sustainable habitats for everyone.

For this year, the IHDC 2011 was launched at Ecobuild’s Cityscape Stage. Last year’s winners presented their projects, along with 2011 Principal Sponsor (Victoria Business Improvement District) and co-organisers Dusty Gedge ( and Blanche Cameron (RESET). Gary Grant, Chair of Judges, spoke of the urgency to support biodiversity in the built environment.

The first competition ran in 2010, and awards were presented at the London World Green Roof Congress (September 2010). First prize went to Edge Hill Halls by Maria-Cristina Banceanu (1st year architecture student, University of Liverpool), above; second place went to MATRIPOLIS, by Paul Jones and David Dobereiner; and 3rd place went to the highly-commended Seed Catalogue by Susannah Hagan, Silvio Caputo, Mark Gaterell. To learn more about these projects, follow their respective links.

The Cityscape Stage was buzzing with interest

Registration for the 2011 IDHC is from 21 March to 31 July, with entry period from 1 May to 31 July. 1st prize is £2,000, 2nd prize is £1,000 and 3rd prize is £750.

Overall a great day, a massive show, several inspiring projects, numerous impressive technologies, and many great people! Many thanks to all who made EcoBuild a fabulous event and gathering!

~ Christine