Accreditation for Green Roofs
Given the relative novelty of green roof installations in the United Kingdom, there is currently no central accreditation body like the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, which regulates the renewable energy market. Whilst their popularity is growing, particularly in our cities and large towns where councils are beginning to develop concrete policies on their installation, we are probably still some way off from official accreditation for green roofs.
Green roofs are extremely popular in Germany, and for many years reputable UK green roof installation companies have followed the lead of their Landscape Research, Development and Construction Society (known as the FLL) who produce comprehensive guidelines for the planning, execution and upkeep of green roof sites.
One new initiative (begun in 2011) that is designed to ensure high installation standards in the UK green roof industry is the Green Roof Code (GRC), which is supported by the European Union’s LIFE Environmental Programme, the UK Environment Agency, and the National Federation of Roofing Contractors.
It is a good idea to ask prospective green roof installers if they follow the guidelines put forward in the FLL and GRC.
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The Green Roof Code
Whilst full accreditation for green roofs may be some way off, the need for an industry standard is a hot topic amongst those who are passionate about improving our environment. Green roofs can have a wide range of benefits for the world we live in but these all come to nothing if installation is carried out in a way that does not help maximise all that potential.
A robust code of practice is designed to provide guidelines and relevant standards that are vital for quality green roof design, installation and maintenance. These include such aspects as:
- The green roof has the right components such as adequate sunlight, good drainage and aeration for the plant material.
- The installation of a root resistant material that means plants won’t be growing into your roof top.
- The installation of moisture retention and protection layers.
- The installation of a robust drainage or reservoir layer and filter layer.
- The growing medium needs to be lightweight, provide good plant anchorage and be fire resistant by containing as little organic matter as possible.
The code also covers such aspects as plant selection which should be compatible with the type of green roof being laid down (intensive or extensive) and the local conditions such as temperature and sunlight. Installers also need to take into account aspects such as:
- The dead load of the green roof, in other words, the weight of the construction when it is fully saturated.
- The effect of wind on the installation and other forces, including the slope of the roof and its potential impact.
- Ensuring there is safe access to the green roof for ongoing maintenance such as gardening.
The guide also lists the kinds of qualification and training that a reputable green roof installer should have such as project management skills, knowledge of the installation, growing mediums and types of plants that are suitable to the environment. The guide recommends that the installer stays in control of the maintenance of the green roof whilst it is settling and becoming established, something which can take anywhere between 12 and 15 months.
On the whole, the guide complies to a number of British and European Standards for build and structural design as well as maintenance and health and safety standards. You can read the full guide here.
The Future of Accreditation for Green Roofs
Full accreditation for green roofs may still be a way off but you can be sure that it is on the way. If your installer is worth his or her salt then they should at least be aware of the Green Roofs Code and the FLL standards coming through from Germany. The US has had Green Roof Professional accreditation since 2003 and most European countries have their own bodies so you can expect some sort of accreditation scheme to be formed in the near future for the UK.
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