The potential of growing plants on roofs to provide insulation and reduce buildings’ carbon footprint and to mitigate local flooding has been successfully tested at the University’s Faculty for the Built Environment. The experiment forms part of the Life Med Green Roof Project funded by the EU under the Life+ scheme.
The project started earlier this year with studies on the choice of plants to be cultivated and tests on their suitability to grow a ‘green roof’ environment. The plants are generally showing promising results in terms of growth and establishment with minimal irrigation, even throughout summer. All but one of the species are native.
Roofs have particular constraints in terms of cultivating plants, so an engineered growing medium is normally used instead of soil to eliminate problems such as compaction and weight. Two growing media have been created specifically for the Maltese climate by one of the project’s Italian partners, Minoprio Analisi e Certificazioni.
Positive results are also being recorded in terms of biodiversity. Since the planting of the test trays in late spring, the project organisers have noted the presence of beneficial insects such as bees, which are important for crop pollination. Other insects observed include butterflies, including the endemic Maltese swallowtail butterfly.
A similar test is being undertaken in northern Italy as part of the project. This will help the researchers understand how green roof performance is affected by climatic differences.
The tests will continue for a year to prepare for the construction of a demonstration green roof garden on one of the faculty’s roofs, which is expected to be completed by summer 2015.
The garden will be open to the public and stakeholders to illustrate the benefits of green roof technology. The roof will also be used to test the insulation and flood mitigation properties of green roofs in the local context.
Environment Minister Leo Brincat was briefed about the progress of the project and shown around the test boxes. He said: “This project has withstood its initial trials very well and when fully implemented will take environmentalism from both a green and an architectural level to a higher plane. On a regional basis it must also be a first of its kind.”
He added that apart from providing insulation, absorbing rainwater, preserving biodiversity and providing a more aesthetically pleasing landscape, the project can also help reduce urban air temperatures and mitigate heat effects.
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