By Dusty Gedge
President, European Federation of Green Roofs and Walls Associations
The news that the French have passed a law on green roofs and solar roofs has been captivating people around the world. It was a great pleasure to be part of the Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit 2015 – my presentation with Nathalie Baumann on Biosolar Roofs generated quite a bit of interest. Most of the conversations since have been about the so-called French Law. This makes the forthcoming European Biosolar Roof Conference in London on 28th September even more relevant.
The Solar Green Roof Law that is Not Yet a Law
The French ‘Law’ is still generating a lot of traction on the social networks and even in political circles. Just last week I had an email regarding a forthcoming White Paper – ‘I am currently researching a White Paper that looks at whether the UK Government could implement legislation akin to the recent French decree that specifies all new commercial builds must have partial green roof or solar array.’ A number of UK politicians have also been in touch.
The irony is that the law in question is, in fact, not a law. The statement on green and solar roofs sits with the new Loi de la Biodiversité is not yet legally enshrined. In fact, this weekend I gathered from a recent news piece in French that the French Senate has stripped out many of the progressive elements within the proposed law, including the statement on green and solar roofs.
So the law that isn’t law that got the social networks all abuzz is perhaps no more. Referring to the French article:
“The National Assembly wanted to see installation of green roofs or including renewable energy devices on retail space under construction. Deleted again by senators who seem to prefer ultra-artificialized cities and at the expense of the quality of life of those who live there. However, they appreciate seeing advertising banners installed instead…”
The National Assembly in France and the French Environment Minister, Ségolène Royal, may try to re-instate the statement but we will have to wait and see whether the law that is not a law actual becomes a legal entity.
Since Nathalie Baumann’s and my video presentation at the 2015 Virtual Conference, I have been inundated with emails from planners across the world wanting to understand the ‘law that isn’t quite a law.’
This brings into focus the general thrust of our video presentation – the Biosolar Roof Project. Intelligent planning and design should work towards combining green roof and solar technologies – it should not aim towards an ‘either or’ situation.
This where we come to the detail of the proposed French Law – the original statement inserted into the act stated ‘green roofs AND solar’. However, this was changed in the first reading in the lower house ‘…to put on a supermarket surface either solar panels or green roofs or the combination of both partially or on the whole surface…’
If this scenario finally becomes legal in France and is followed by other countries, including the UK, it could be to the detriment of a burgeoning green roof market. Why? The average developer would turn to solar in preference to green roofs.
The ‘Bio’ element of the Biosolar Roof Project focuses on the provision of biodiversity on green roofs through the use of solar panels. Solar panels on green roofs can in fact, through good design, provide a more diverse native floral community, which in turn benefits biodiversity, especially pollinators. This fits neatly into the European Green Infrastructure and Ecosystem Services Strategy that aims to address Europe’s declining biodiversity.
The conference in London condenses the Biosolar Roof Project’s array of information and stories from across Europe where biosolar roofs are being installed, including in London. The project ends this year but the London conference in September is a new beginning – one that aims to ensure professionals working in the built environment and contractors in the fields of landscape and renewable energy have the knowledge and awareness to deliver biosolar roofs across Europe.
The conference will be of interest to policy makers, building owners, facility managers, architects, landscape architects, ecologists and sustainability professionals.
One Roof for Energy or One Roof for Ecosystem Services is Not Smart.
The conference and the Biosolar Roof Project will show that we do not have to be reductive when it comes to designing roofs. We can make a future where roofs deliver the benefits each technology has for society, in one place, on one roof.
The conference will also highlight the need for a biodiversity approach to the specification and design of green roofs to support Europe’s pollinators. A biosolar future for roofs in Europe can easily be replicated across the globe, to ensure that our cities are resilient, adapted to climate change and support a low carbon economy that embraces biodiversity.
I know that this will have little effect on the ‘law that isn’t quite a law’ in France. It may, however, influence other countries, especially my own, to take a more inclusive and intelligent approach to sustainable roofs.
Hopefully some of you may attend and I look forward to seeing you in London to help further the cause.
President, European Federation of Green Roofs and Walls Associations
London, UK. 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 helped develop the London Green Roof Policy. He is also the current President of the European Federation of Green Roofs and Walls Associations (EFB), and sits on the EU’s working group for the green Infrastructure and ecosystem services policy. His work in Europe over the last few years working on a Pan-European green roof course and he is currently advising on a project on green roofs, pollinators and solar power – Biosolar Roofs.
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 Livingroofs.org, 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. With John Little he has written a small-scale green roof guide to help individuals, buildings and landscape contractors to construct small wildlife friendly green roofs. He is also a designer of green roofs and other green infrastructure through his consultancy. Dusty is also a regular speaker at conferences through UK, Europe and the world.
As a birdwatcher first and foremost he has always had a vision that good green infrastructure and green roofs should deliver for biodiversity as well other headline issues connected with cities and climate change adaptation.
Contact Dusty at: [email protected]