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June 26, 2021

Greening The Concrete Jungle: Sydney’s New Green Wall and Roof Policy

So much has been said about the necessity of greening our cities. From reducing air pollution, the urban heat island effect and managing water resources more efficiently to creating better places to raise our children, we have heard it all. All around the world local authorities fight for budget to fund the creation of parks amidst the concrete jungle. Yet, one Australian city has upped its game, taking the fight for more green areas vertical.

The City of Sydney introduced the first-of-its-kind (for Oz) green roof and wall policy which aims to encourage both residential and commercial business owners to invest in living installations. Both old and new constructions showcase the authorities’ efforts to turn the city into a modern, luxurious green jungle. So far, there are over 49 council-approved green fittings. Since these marvelous installations were first theorised by Stanley Hart White back in the early 1930’s, there has been a significant spike of their on-site implementation. Only in Sydney, the increase reaches well beyond 70% with 96,000 square meters of thick foliage hovering over the city.

green walls
Above: Green walls like this one in Sutton, UK will become more common throughout Sydney thanks to the new Green Wall and Roof policy being introduced.

What Does This Mean For Sydney’s Cityscape?

If ten years ago super-expensive green wall or roof installation was seen as an extravagant design decision, today, it’s more than clear – these little pieces of green heaven are here to stay! Despite the technological evolution and years of research done on various aspects of living roofs and walls design and implementation, they are still quite the sizable investment. Nonetheless, local greening businesses report that the demand for living walls and roofs has spiked over the recent years. After the city’s active involvement even more so.

Truth be told, there are countless reasons why one would want to invest in them. For residents, green installations mean better insulation, reduced noise levels (even in inner-city suburbs), more open space and, naturally, the building looks better. For businesses, it means earning Green Star points for the office building, committing to the environmental cause, avoiding the sick building syndrome and providing a better work space for their employees. For the broader public, it stands for cleaner air, reduced urban heat island effect, better use of rain water and increased biodiversity. Sounds like a win-win, right?

Here is the tricky part, though. Green installations can be created only by licensed contractors. They include complex irrigation systems which can last up to 25 years but needs regular maintenance. The choice of plants depends on the climate of the area. While technicians can say how long the mechanics will last, there are no guarantees as far as the foliage goes.

Thanks to the commitment of the City of Sydney, seminars and consultations are available to the wider audience. Learning about the basics of eco walls and roofs is just the beginning. Finding out who are the go-to people for the job, doing research, comparing quotes and solving the long-term maintenance problems is where the help of local authorities will be invaluable.

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