Despite Parliament House wearing a proud and verdant crown of lawn, green roofs have been slow to take hold in Australia. But this appears to be changing.
Geoff Heard, managing director of Fytogreen – one of Australia’s leading suppliers of green roofs, walls, and façades – tells ADR that over the last two years the company has seen a four-fold increase in the number of green roofs they’ve installed in Queensland. He attributes this in part to increasing population density and the desire among homeowners to retain green spaces in the face of encroaching development.
Whereas in the past, interest in green roofs, walls and façades has come more from the commercial sector, Heard says residential projects are on the rise. This is a finding echoed by Mark Paul, director of The Greenwall Company, who attributes this in part to a better understanding of the benefits of increasing green spaces. “There has definitely been an increase in the interest in and installations of greenwalls in the past few years, but mainly for small-scale projects and some occasional larger scale installations. I think this is due to the fact that on a global scale there has been a lot of education done and research reported on the benefits of greenwalls and green roofs in regards to health and the environment. This has boosted the awareness of greenwalls and has given people a reason to investigate them further beyond just their aesthetic appeal.”
He lists amenity as the main benefit for people to install a greenwall, roof or façade. “People like to be surrounded by greenery as it softens and adds life to the built environment. With apartment living on the rise, it’s a great way to add greenery and give a sense of bringing the outside in without compromising on space. Worldwide, we see apartment blocks with potted plants in windows and on balconies—greenwalls are a far better alternative.”
So, if you’re interested in greening up the roof and walls of your house, how can you best go about it?
For those starting out, the easiest way to green your home is with a green façade, says Heard. As opposed to a greenwall, where the plants grow on the wall, the plants that make up a green façade are grown from the ground or pots at the base of the wall. One benefit of this type of greening is that it attracts more birdlife as there is a more wooded area in which the birds can perch and nest.
Paul, says adding greenery is best done during the initial build. Where this is not possible, however, he says a greenwall is a great place to start as these can be installed both inside and out.
His advice on choosing plants is to decide based on your tastes. “Then you need to take into consideration light, aspect and how you will provide water, food, and drainage,” he adds. “Ask yourself, are you plant-interested and can you do this manually or should it be automated or outsourced. My number one go-to for greenwalls is a variety of aroids.”
When planning a greenwall, it’s important to be aware of weight constraints. “The most important thing to remember is a cubic metre of water weighs a ton, a rain-loaded cubic metre of conventional media weighs around three tons. Lightweight is crucial and saves enormous costs in steel and concrete and structural engineering. Access is another area that without planning can be a major cost.”
In terms of locating a wall, Paul says anything is possible, but areas of low or no light will require considerable lighting, which can come at a big cost.
Interested in greenwalls? This article on preserved plants might be of interest.