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A Greener City

Sarah Hudson asks Can the Barbican learn from the City’s green roof experience?

Rotunda garden showing planter and drain

There has been a quiet revolution in the City. Developers have woken up to the fact that green roofs sell office space. With a little push from the City planners most new build offices now include terraces and roofs with a variety of planting from sedum carpets to trees and wild flower meadows. Retrofitting green roofs to existing buildings has also become more cost effective and desirable.

Rotunda garden planter with fern shellibore and box shrubs

Central Courtyard garden wildflower meadow

area is huge - about 4,200 square meters - or half the size of the Thomas More garden. Built at more or less the same time as the Barbican Estate, its original roof was starting to leak (sound familiar?) and had to be replaced. The decision was taken to make the entire roof area “green” both by incorporating insulation to current building regulation standards and ‘green roof ready’ by


roundabout at the junction of Aldersgate Street and London Wall and can be viewed from the Podium; the other is the central Courtyard garden, which is accessible if you visit the Museum.

Rotunda garden

A series of planters, each with its own rain water reservoir support shade-loving ferns, hellebores and artfully clipped box hedges. On the canopy above the Podium walkway and on the top of the newly refurbished corporate

entertainment rooms there are green roofs planted with sun loving and drought tolerant plants such as wild strawberry, marjoram and yarrow.

Rainwater is captured in planter reservoirs for irrigation and the


ne recently greened building is the Museum of London. The total roof

laying a root resistant top membrane. So far just over 30 % of the roof is now planted as a series of different habitats. At the same time the Museum also installed a rainwater harvesting system. Two of the Museum roofs are easy to see from the ground. Both had supported gardens for some years before undergoing stunning makeovers as part of the greening project. One is the Rotunda garden, which lies inside the

surplus is collected in large tanks beneath the Museum where it is treated by filtering and UV light before it is used in the Museum wash rooms. The Museum has also installed leak detection systems so that no water is wasted.

Courtyard garden This is in fact a roof over lower level workrooms and offices. There is a mixture of bee friendly planting in containers and a wonderful wild flower meadow, rich in perennial native species, such as campion, ragged robin, ox eye daisy, clover and yarrow. There is a beehive and plans for more. Industrious bees commute to work in surrounding gardens and produce the most delicious Museum of London honey.

Why go green?

As Gavin McCourt, the Museum’s Facilities and Projects Manager explains, “green roofs have about double the working life of a conventional roof. They also can help keep spaces cooler during summer whilst providing additional insulation during the winter - something that is very important for the Museum. This improves our energy efficiency through reduced air conditioning or heating.“

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