How safe are green rooftops?
A green rooftop in Soho – London. Image Courtesy Dusty Gedge
Working at dizzying heights can take its toll. Until recently, the safety of those working on the rooftops has been not taken into consideration.
As green rooftops are an effective way of reducing a building’s operational costs and meet new green planning requirements such as BREEM, many businesses are considering having one installed on the roof.
There has been an increasing demand for more advanced training in specialised areas such as rooftop safety. When I went on a visit to the Royal Holloway University to visit a green rooftop on one of the student living accommodations, it was essential to be harnessed up to several sturdy metal chains.
But many of those maintaining the roofs not only need horticultural experience but also the ‘how to’ on working safely at height. These roofs are put on top of buildings often several storeys high so not just green, biodiversity standards should be accounted for.
The British Association of Landscapes Industries (BALI), a professional body who provide contractors to install green rooftops, recently set up module training courses to offer not only information on green rooftop performance and maintenance but also equip people with the skills they need for a successful and safe project.
“We need qualified horticulturalists who can get on a roof and work safely and know how to maintain the actual nature of the roof,” says Denise Ewbank, Relations Manager at the BALI.
Extensive roofs can be across a whole top of a building or domed shaped roof and so special equipment must be used.
“Obviously when working on particularly extensive green rooftops safety harnesses are needed to protect them from falling off,” Ewbank adds.