Black Redstarts on London Olympic Green Roof

May 28, 2013

Black Redstarts on the largest green roof at the London Olympic Site are breeding. Stuart Connop who helps run the green roof research programme at the University of East London was on the roof last week and saw the pair foraging across the roof. I designed the green roof on the Media Centre through my consultancy GRC. The roof was designed to help meet both the green roof targets within the Olympics Sustainability Plan and to meet the Olympic Biodiversity Action Gary Grant, my colleague at GRC, helped write the plan. So green roofs do work work for biodiversity and they do work for black redstarts.

The London Olympics biggest green roof – courtesy of Stuart Connop UEL
The London Olympics biggest green roof – courtesy of Stuart Connop UEL

The Black Redstart Story

The presence of black redstarts of course gives me a great deal of pleasure as the bird, which is a protected species in the UK, was how started in green roofs. Fifteen years ago down in Deptford we started to try and get developers to install green roofs for black redstarts. As I usually say – the rest is history- I became a black redstart expert and a green roof guru. Although I am luck enough to be full time employed as a green roofer and get to travel and speak all over the world – seeing or hearing about black redstarts on green roofs always gives me great pleasure.

Black Redstart on Media Centre Green Roof - courtesy S. Connop
Black Redstart on Media Centre Green Roof – courtesy S. Connop

Green Roof Design

The roof was designed following the guidelines that Gary Grant Dr. G. Kadas and I wrote for Buglife – the Invertebrate Charity and is based on over ten years of research into green roofs and invertebrates. As Spring is late this year I am sure that there will be many more flowers in bloom in the next few weeks. But the dry meadow can be seen in the photos provided by Stuart Connop. The mounded substrate was seeded and planted with native wildflowers all installed by Frosts Landscapes.

Ox-eye Daisies - courtesy of S. Connop
Ox-eye Daisies – courtesy of S. Connop

Green Roofs and Solar Panels

Originally the green roof was designed without Solar Panels. The Olympic PV target was behind schedule so the Media Centre being one of the largest roofs areas in the Olympics was chosen to have them installed. There is still a misconception that you cant mix technologies. But this roof demonstrates that you can get solar energy, create habitat and provide all the benefits of green roofs in one by following an ecosystems approach.

Black Redstart on a London Roof - Dusty Gedge
Black Redstart on a London Roof – Dusty Gedge

Celebration

It seemed that last year was full of every man and his dog saying that they designed this and that at the Olympics. It has been quite fun and also a tad irritating to see the frantic singing and shouting about who was instrumental in making the London Olympics one of the greenest. This is the first time I have had a shout about my involvement. And it is something to celebrate not for my own personal vanity because the roof is doing what it was intended to. Returning a roof to nature and for black redstarts.

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