We all love our cities to be as green as possible. But we don’t have to rely just on parks and allotments for urban greenery. There are thousands of acres of potential vegetable patch, grassy bank or wildlife heaven right above our heads.
More and more architects, builders and homeowners are contributing to the ‘greening’ of our cities by creating green roofs. Green buildings will make the cities of tomorrow. So, we’re glad to see more and more cropping up (see what we did there?) Get to know 6 of our favourites:
1) The Nomura Building, City of London
1 Angel Lane, home to Japanese financial services group Nomura, has a green roof the size of six tennis courts. It’s massive. And it’s got everything: award-winning formal gardens, water features and panoramic views of the Thames. A kitchen garden tended by a volunteer team provides fresh veg for the building’s kitchens, with the surplus sold to staff and the profits donated to charity.
On top of all that, the building is topped with solar panels and was carefully designed to manage resource consumption and waste. In fact, 1 Angel Lane is London’s first carbon neutral building. Top work.
2) Scottish Parliament Building, Edinburgh
The Scottish Parliament at Holyrood is another pioneering building. All of its electricity comes from solar panels and renewable sources. But most striking is the visual appearance created by its many green roofs.
Architect Enric Mirallas aimed to achieve a harmony with the surrounding Holyrood landscape by covering the roofs in turf and wild grass. Everywhere you look are green spaces dotted with Scottish wildflowers and plants. And there’s plenty for wildlife too. A recent conservation project used the building’s green roofs to provide a special habitat for “Edinburgh’s butterfly”, the Northern Brown Argus. She’s a beauty.
3) Ham Yard Hotel, Soho
Firmdale hotels are famous for their beautiful interiors. But the Ham Yard Hotel in Soho also has a lovely outdoors surprise.
The Roof Terrace on the fourth floor boasts a secret leafy garden supplying seasonal fruit, veg and edible flowers to the hotel restaurant. It even has two beehives. Beekeeper Camilla uses eco-friendly methods to produce honey and the Ham Yard bar staff use it in cocktails (great for giving guests a bit of a buzz…).
4) Cardiff Castle
Cardiff Castle is the oldest building on our list: its Roman Fort, Norman Keep and fairytale towers represent 2,000 years of Welsh history! But it also has a modern green roof. The Interpretation Centre building has a beautifully-designed ‘wildflower meadow’ roof - perfectly in keeping with the green parklands that surround the Castle and make it such a special attraction right in the heart of a busy capital city.
5) Coutts Skyline Garden, Westminster
In 2011 Coutts Bank transformed the roof terrace of its Westminster headquarters into the Strand Skyline Garden. It is now one of the best vegetable gardens in London, with more than 400 metres of fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowering plants.
There are more than 15,000 species grown on this amazing green roof, from purple sprouting broccoli to prickly pears. It supplies the Coutts kitchen and is home to bees, butterflies and even ducks.
6) Gloucester Services, M5
It’s not strictly urban, but we had to include Gloucester Services. It’s a service station like no other. The service station of champions. There’s a farm shop selling local, organic produce and a great restaurant serving it all up on site. And, the roof is a beauty, designed to harmonise with the Cotswolds landscape. Gloucester Services shows there are ways to create something green and beautiful, even right by the motorway. A destination in itself?