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Living roofs for people and nature

SFHA's virtual Development Conference, taking place on 16 and 17 September, over two half-day sessions, will discuss three projects that received funding from last year’s Social Housing and Green Infrastructure Fund - a partnership between SFHA, NatureScot, Architecture + Design Scotland and the Scottish Government. The fund was created to support place-design that maximises the benefits of green infrastructure in social housing across Scotland. Ivan Clark, Placemaking Team Manager, NatureScot, discusses the Meadowbank Green Roof Viability project.

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Living roofs are commonplace in London and in some other English cities, but what are the benefits? What do they cost to install and maintain? Can they be integrated into Scottish housing projects in a way that doesn’t compromise the financial viability of the development?

These are some of the questions that the Meadowbank Green Roof Viability project is seeking to answer. Funding from NatureScot and Scottish Government, (working with SFHA and Architecture and Design Scotland), has enabled City of Edinburgh Council to extend an existing master planning commission for a new residential development near Meadowbank stadium. One of Edinburgh’s most high-profile regeneration sites, the scheme is likely to include around 600 dwellings, including a minimum of 35% affordable homes for social and mid-market rent. In addition, the council expects the new neighbourhood to be highly energy efficient to support its aim of achieving net zero carbon by 2030.

The design team, comprising Collective Architecture, RaeburnFarquharBowen, and Dusty Gedge (the Green Infrastructure Consultancy), are exploring the contribution that green roofs could make to a sustainable neighbourhood, including:

  • managing rainwater: green/blue roofs can slow the run-off of surface water from the site, helping the neighbourhood to cope with extreme rainfall events likely to become more common as a result of climate change
  • efficient use of space: less space may be needed at ground level for urban drainage schemes, potentially freeing up land for more housing
  • reducing energy costs: green roofs can help cool buildings down in the summer and insulate them in the winter
  • providing greenspace: some of the roofs are likely to be accessible, so residents can enjoy contact with nature close to where they live, with benefits to their health and wellbeing
  • providing important ‘steppingstone’ habitats for rare butterflies and other insects – new habitats can help some of the rare species on Arthur’s Seat colonise other parts of the city.

We want to find out what these nature-based solutions cost in a real world setting, so the project will also employ quantity surveyors to estimate the short and whole-life costs of different types of green roofs, from those that require intensive management and allow public access to those that require very little maintenance but still provide a range of benefits.

Our ambition is that, following completion, the green roofs and the range of other nature-based solutions that the design team are integrating into this site will provide the best practice example of innovative green infrastructure in Scotland – all within a 15-minute walk of the Scottish Parliament.

The Meadowbank Development Green Roof Options Appraisal was published in April 2020. The report concludes that the medium-long term benefits and savings that would accrue from the function of the green roofs at this site more than outweigh the small increase in initial capital costs compared to more traditional approaches. The development proposal is currently subject to a separate live planning application. While the application itself does not currently require roof types to be specified and current outline cost plans makes no provision for Green Roof Infrastructure, the City of Edinburgh Council will consider how green roofs could be incorporated at the next stage, taking into account the costs and benefits set out in this report.

Find out more about this project at this year’s SFHA virtual Development Conference which is taking place over two half-day sessions on 16 and 17 September. 

Why attend?

  • Hear about housing’s role in the recovery from Covid-19, economically and environmentally
  • See practice case studies from RSLs already developing green infrastructure sites
  • A chance to explore how RSLs and the construction industry can work together on sustainable development

The virtual conference will feature a series of live and recorded sessions that will take place over two half-days on 16 and 17 September. Sessions will be in the morning on day one and in the afternoon on day two.

Virtual Q&As, chat and polling will help to create an innovative interactive experience for delegates. You can also access on demand content from virtual conferences for three months after the event, so you can watch at anytime, and anywhere, that’s convenient to you.

Rates start at £125 to attend one half-day for SFHA members and £170 for non members. If you book to attend both half-days, you will save £30.

You book your place at the conference, please visit the SFHA Live! section of our website.

A few days before the conference, you will be sent a link to access SFHA's new interactive conference hub. If you have any questions, please contact SFHA's events team on events@sfha.co.uk.

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