Green Roofs and Brown Roofs

Most people will be familiar with the concept of green roofs (also known as living roofs). These have enjoyed a huge surge in popularity over the last few years due to the wide range of benefits that they provide. These include:

  • Reduced rainwater runoff
  • Enhanced roof insulation properties
  • Attractive visual appearance
  • Reduction in urban heat island effect
  • Enhances roof lifespan by protecting underlying waterproofing system
  • Provide green space in urban areas
  • Encourage biodiversity

What are Brown Roofs?

Brown roofs are similar to green roofs in that they share many of the same benefits and construction methods. However, when a brown roof is designed, the overriding aim is to encourage biodiversity. Specific biodiversity aims can include:

  • Maximise the number of species (biodiversity) living on the rooftop
  • Provide a habitat for a specific species (e.g. a threatened species living on a brownfield site that a building is being constructed on)

It is a general misconception that the term “brown roof” describes the colour of the roof. Because brown roofs usually utilise local soil and spoil to provide the substrate for the roof, the roof will often initially be brown in colour. However, over time plant species will grow over this substrate and the end result will be a green-coloured roof – albeit one that nature has had a large hand in “designing.” The photographs below compare the look of brown roofs immediately after construction with that of brown roofs that have been allowed to colonise for two years:

Brown roof during construction
Brown roof after construction
Brown roof after two years
Brown roof after two years
During Construction
After Construction
After two years
After two years

Brown roofs are very flexible in their design and can be tailored to meet the requirements of clients and architects as well as to meet specific sustainability targets. For example, a basic brown roof could utilise recycled material and spoil from a local building site to attract wildlife that may have lost it’s habitat due to urban expansion GTArcade. Local wildlife could then be left to colonise the roof over a period of time with minimal human intervention. At the other end of the scale a more complex project might include the following elements designed to increase the potential for biodiversity and/or to provide a habitat for specific target species:

  • Water pools
  • Logs to provide a habitat for insects invertebrates
  • Plants indigenous to the area
  • Wetland areas for the establishment of mosses and lichens
  • Boulders and stones
  • Seeding of indigenous plants
  • Land forms created to provide different landscape levels

It should be noted, that all brown roof systems should use a high percentage of recycled products. Most materials used in the implementation of a brown roof can be up to 100% recycled. With the careful selection of products, it is possible to reach this percentage. Suppliers and manufacturers should also be able to provide certification to substantiate this. However if this is not possible, you should expect at the very minimum 40% recycled products.
Mt Wellington Real Estate Agents
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