The installation of living roofs and cool roofs continues to top the list of commercial design trends across the country.

Growing media interest and commercial demand has forced landscape architects, city planners and environmental engineers to push the envelope to redefine sustainability in commercial building design. This has ultimately led to increased use of a building’s ‘fifth façade’ – the rooftop.

While the trend toward basic green or living roofs continues, commercial developers are seeking innovative designs to implement green infrastructure into their development. Green roofs are seemingly popping up in every aspect of commercial development.

Several smaller commercial developments are seeking personalised or boutique green roofs to set them apart from the competition. Many educational facilities are integrating more living roof space into their designs to act as living laboratories for research and training. Hospitals and healthcare facilities across the world are seeing the benefits of green roofs and including living architecture in their designs to promote faster healing.

Sky farms or rooftop vegetable gardens are a form of green roof design that several offices, restaurants and schools are implementing. Fresh food can be grown in the centre of a city on space that would otherwise go unused.

Many new commercial developments are complying with mandatory regulations to achieve Green Star or LEED certification, while others are being retrofitted to include living roofs to help mitigate environmental impact and cut down on energy costs.

In South Australia, all new and refurbished commercial buildings with flat roofs must include a ‘cool roof’ design before development will be approved.

During the summer months, cool roofs are beneficial because the sun is higher in the sky and the roof is hit more directly by its rays. As many commercial buildings have flat roofs, cool roofs reduce the demand for heating and cooling.

Cool or living roofs are also extremely efficient in mitigating the heat island effect, which many of Australia’s capital cities are experiencing.

Burnley Living Roofs Project

Burnley Living Roofs Project

“We know that rooftops make up 17 percent of the total land area in the city,” said Lord Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle. “Green roofs are a tremendous opportunity to achieve savings for building owners and create attractive, usable spaces for tenants and residents.”

Doyle said people are drawn to live in cities because of the opportunities within but they also want open spaces, parks and a clean environment.

“It is clear to me that successful cities in the future will be the ones that adapt quickly to what people want,” he said.

Green Roofs and cool roofs save energy and help reduce surrounding temperatures. They also regulate the temperature of the underlying building interiors, reducing the need for external sources of cooling which can equal huge savings for large commercial buildings.

They also protect rivers, lakes and beaches from pollution as they absorb and delay runoff from rainfall.

Cool roofs use light coloured, reflective materials rather than dark coloured materials to reflect the sun’s energy and transmit heat from the interior of the building. Green roofs and cool roofs have similar results in reducing energy demands for cooling.

This year has seen the launch of Australia’s largest green roof research and outreach project at the University of Melbourne’s Burnley campus.

The project, called Burnley Living Roofs, is a world-class teaching and research facility made up of three separate living roofs including the Demonstration roof, Research roof and Biodiversity roof.

Burnley Living Roofs Project

Burney Living Roofs project has three separate roofs for education and research

The facility was established to demonstrate how green transformations can be achieved in urban areas and to show the positive outcomes they achieve.

Designed by HASSELL, the living roofs are installed on the top of the administration building of the university. HASSELL’s design approach consisted of innovative research and construction methods, including a fabricated roof assembled off-site in a factory then reassembled on the rooftop.

The project allows the university to continue with its research in the field of sustainable building design while providing information on how to practically deliver green infrastructure in Australia. The green roof is also predicted to have a positive insulation effect on the building.

The Burnley Living Roofs project enables the university to connect with the local community and advocate for a broader application of green roofs across the country.

John Rayner of the Melbourne School of Land and Environment said the project amied to show a wide range of possibilities, from non-irrigated succulent beds to deeper, productive vegetable gardens.

“Green roofs are functional and beautiful spaces that can be built new or retrofitted to existing buildings,” he said. “Planning and design are key components to successful green roofs and the Burnley Green Roofs are an example of this.”