Time industrial sheds were made to green up

Mar 1, 2016

Industrial Shed designers and developers have for too long be able to get away without having to face up to the green building agenda. I am spurred to write this due to a rather ‘pathetic’ response to planning application by Cory Environmental in London Borough of Bexley – it really is debatable whether the said development should go ahead because of nature conservation issues.

Planned Industrial Sheds - Erith Marshes
Planned Industrial Sheds – Erith Marshes

The Bexley Wildlife Group has been working is working on a major objection. I have given some supporting advice to the group.

What is typical is ‘…Cory’s application makes passing reference to some green roofing but seeks to paint this as largely impractical…’ when green roofs are referred to.

Green roofs are impractical on industrial sheds?

Impractical can be read in several ways:

  • cost – certainly strengthening the buildings will incur a stable increase in the cost of the development which can not be disputed
  • developers consultants will argue that the increase in CO2 will increase the carbon footprint of the new development. This is standard – bleeding about CO2 footprint to defect from what is the real issue for the developer – the cost
  • Developers just doesn’t want to build a green roof

Why green roofs should have been considered as mitigation

Quite frankly the developers ecologists should be held to task. However, to survey an important site during the non-breeding season is quite usual. The report because surveys were undertaken in the autumn did not identify

  • nesting Skylarks
  • nesting Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers

Quelle surprise!

I used to birdwatch this area regularly in the early 2000s – all three species breed in and around the so-called Borax fields and still do. Considering that these are currently the only known breeding pairs in the London Borough I would have thought that this should have been of some importance to the planners. However, there is along history of industrial sheds being plonked on this land, even when there were protected species breeding on the site – the Black redstart.

The point here is that all three species can and will nest on good green roofs if they are provided for.

Industrial Sheds and Green roofs – not a case of can’t but WON’T

I have had over 15 years experience of dealing with Industrial shed style developments and have field innumerable enquiries from local councils, NGOs and the general public. My advice has generally been:

challenge them if you want but you are unlikely to win

But it is about time this area of the built environment was tackled face on. And the only way to do that is for Councils to not meekly bow to the altar of economic development and the subtle but effective arguments of developers consultants. We managed to do this for developments within Central London 12 years ago. The same sort of arguments were raised by developers. Now there is over 175,000m2 of green roofs in Central London. – once challenged the industrial shed market will follow suit or more likely dragged screaming but they will. Councils just ned to show a bit of resolve.

Examples of Industrial Sheds in the UK with green roofs

Glow Bluewater - Industrial Shed style building with green roof
Glow Bluewater – Industrial Shed style building with green roof

Around 10 miles away at Bluewater and industrial shed type building sits in the Bluewater Complex. The Glow venue has a roof specifically designed  to replicate ‘open-mosaic habitat’. The roof is a functioning piece of green infrastructure in the Urban environment.

There are other examples such as the Adnam’s Brewery and the Rolls Royce Factory – with its breeding partridges, skylarks (featured on Springwatch years ago).

On continental Europe I have visited many such buildings. In Vienna I have watched Crested Larks nesting on a huge industrial building the size of a football pitch. Lapwings nesting in Emmen in Switzerland. however the best example I know of is in the City of Linz.

Industrial Zone - green roofs Linz, Austria
Industrial Zone – green roofs Linz, Austria

Back in 1984 the City took a strategic view that green roofs should be installed on buildings throughout the city. This has not reduced the number of industrial shed type buildings being built. This means the economic viability of the cIty of Linz has NOT been undermined because a proactive policy  of green roofs.

Consider the opening picture of this blog to the one above. Bexley could allow development and mitigate. If only it would stand up to the Industrial Shed developers.

Sadly I doubt it will

it’s about time that this state of affairs was challenged. 

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