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Reducing the urban heat island effect - we’ve all felt the effects of sweltering summer nights in the City. Summer night time

Green roofs also have more wide spread benefits.

“By 2050 summers are expected to be 1.5 to 3.5ºC hotter as a result of climate change”

temperatures in central London are currently 5 to 6ºC warmer than surrounding rural areas. Buildings absorb and store heat more readily than vegetation and at night this heat is reflected back to the atmosphere, raising the temperature of the surrounding area. By 2050 summers are expected to be 1.5 - 3.5ºC hotter as a result of climate change so it will become more and more important to reduce this additional heating effect. Research suggests that if cities had 50% green roof cover, temperatures could be reduced by up to 2ºC. Not only would our comfort levels be improved - but it would also reduce the amount of energy used for air conditioning.

What lessons can we learn in the Barbican from this? Might we apply some of this new technology to Podium refurbishment works in Bryer Court and Beech Gardens?

Rain water harvesting - in spite of a very wet April and May, there is an underlying drought. Would rain water harvesting for irrigation of plants be a solution? And not just here but in other areas of the Podium as they are refurbished.

“it’s really difficult to skateboard on grass!”

More green and less tiles? Heresy for those residents who love the stark simplicity of the Podium - but wouldn’t it be delightful to look over swathes of meadow flowers in the Sculpture Court? Or spring blossom and autumn berries on native hedgerow plants in Beech Gardens? Or watch those Museum bees pollinating dwarf fruit trees in Bryer Court? Wouldn’t more green mean less expensive replacement of cracked tiles every spring? There could be less storm water run off and fewer flooded store rooms from blocked or inadequate drains. And it’s really difficult to skateboard on grass!

The City is pressing ahead with supporting efforts to green its roofs. For

example, in the Cheapside area alone, the City has identified over a hundred roofs with a high potential for greening. Conversion of hard landscaping into green roofs or green spaces can often attract funding because of the many benefits to the community through reduction of flooding and improved public space. In cities like Toronto businesses have even been offered tax incentives to go green. So maybe we should start expecting the City to have a serious look at what we can do in the Barbican?

Sarah Hudson is chair of the Barbican Association Sustainability Group. A more detailed version of this article is posted on the BA website with attached references to research on green roofs. If you would like to learn more about the Sustainability Group’s current projects please email Or come along to our monthly meetings in the Seddon House meeting room. Dates of meetings are on the BA website.

Reducing storm water - even where rainwater is not harvested, green roofs absorb rainwater and release it more slowly. This reduces the pressure on storm water drainage, which in turn reduces the risk from surface water flooding.

Above: roof showing gravel ridge habitat and sedummat (leftforeground). Above Left: Courtyard garden beehive with reflection of Lauderdale Tower

Biodiversity - and of course green roofs support biodiversity - the Museum main roof has a series of different habitats that are home to burrowing bumblebees and a wide variety of insects that in turn feed bats and birds.

And humans like green roofs

too! Some lucky Barbican residents in Mountjoy can look down on the Museum’s green roofs. And Museum staff can look out over ribbon planters supporting native hedgerow plants and wildflowers. Research suggests that we are happier and more productive if we have access to plants.

Rotunda Garden showing green roof splanters and greenwalls


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