Have you ever seen a roof that looks like a park? Or a roof that can be used to grow vegetables for the salad bar in the building’s lunch restaurant? This is what is known as a green roof. In the future, green roofs will become an important element of adapting urban infrastructure to climate change.

Using green roofs to alleviate flooding and provide relief from the summer heat

In cities, buildings and asphalt cover the majority of natural vegetation and create a surface that is impervious to water. By absorbing water, green roofs slow down the flow of stormwater to drains, thereby effectively reducing the risk of flooding in cities. By evaporating water and preventing the structures below from heating up, green roofs also cool down both the urban environment and the indoor air of buildings.

By evaporating water and preventing the structures below from heating up, green roofs also cool down both the urban environment and the indoor air of buildings. Cooling buildings may not seem like a very high priority from the Finnish perspective, but globally it is responsible for consuming much more energy than heating.

Finnish green roof construction still in its infancy

Compared to Central Europe, green roof construction is still relatively uncommon in Finland. There are perhaps twenty or thirty green roofs in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, and even fewer elsewhere in the country. However, increased cooling requirements for office buildings have increased the energy consumption of properties substantially over the past 10 years. Utilising green roofs can be one solution for improving the energy efficiency of Finnish office buildings.

Turning roofs into parks and gardens

I fully expect the construction and use of green roofs to increase in Finland. In fact, current city planning has already included it as a key requirement. Green solutions were also one of the selection criteria applied to the competitive tendering for Helsinki’s Kalasatama district and central Pasila.

Green structures are not limited to the roofs of buildings. Some years ago, Sponda developed two parking facilities in Itäkeskus with trees and other vegetation planted on their covers. I expect a wealth of opportunities for functional green construction in the future. Some examples include the rooftop terraces of office buildings, soil for cultivation on the roofs of residential buildings as well as rooftop gardens used as therapeutic and recreational environments for hospitals and assisted-living facilities.

Veli-Pekka Tanhuanpää
Senior Vice President for Property Development of Sponda

Published

12.12.2012
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