Why aren’t all roofs like this?

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Our practice has been involved in specifying a number of ‘green roofs’ over recent years, usually sedum due to roof load-bearing constraints. However, our most recent and enjoyable roof project has been when we designed our eco-house in Oxford. Planning restrictions meant that the entire kitchen would have a flat roof with a large skylight as would the garden office, and we didn’t want to look down from the bedrooms above on to grey sarnofil!.

Our house is situated right next to a flood meadow and the locale is lush with willows, rununculus and irises at the river’s edge, so we wanted something in keeping with this feel that would tie in with our desire to support wildlife in all his projects.  Our gold medal-winning RHS Chelsea garden “Nature Ascending” was an expression of this love for natural, wildlife-attractive planting within a crisp, modern aesthetic and featured water-edge planting and habitat for bees, birds, frogs and newts.

Our two flat roofs were therefore planted with a rich meadow mix, which in the last 3 seasons has been host to a variety of insects and birds.  The first summer, it was like looking out of the bedroom window over a field of green barley.  By high summer the following year, huge tumbles of purple vetch hung over the office and kitchen roof like an overgrown mop of curly hair.  This late Spring, the roofs are peppered with bright pink campion, buttercups and oxeye daisies.  Its getting better and better.

At the end of the summer, we cut the meadow down by hand using a scythe.   Harvest spiders hurry away over our hands, and last year we found a beautiful grass snake in residence.

With the the right roofing structure, materials and simple irrigation system, a meadow roof is a beautiful, engaging way to invite more green, wildlife, and colour into a small or town garden. With so many families wanting larger, eat-in kitchens opening to the outside and thus converting and extending, this option gives a sense of multi-level greenery throughout the year. It also provides an undisturbed sanctuary for birds and insects whose habitats have become increasingly endangered as more of our environment becomes hard-landscaped.

It makes us wonder... why aren’t all roofs like this?

Angus’ eco-house and garden is featured in Grand Designs Magazine (July issue 2016).