Living Roofs for People and Nature

Living roofs are common place in London and in some other English cities, but what are the benefits? What do they cost to install and maintain? Can they be integrated into Scottish housing projects in a way that doesn’t compromise the financial viability of the development?

These are some of the questions that the Meadowbank Green Roof Viability project is seeking to answer. Funding from Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Government, (working with SFHA and Architecture and Design Scotland), has enabled City of Edinburgh Council to extend an existing Masterplanning commission for a new residential development near Meadowbank stadium. One of Edinburgh’s most high-profile regeneration sites, the scheme is likely to include around 600 dwellings, including a minimum of 35% affordable homes for social and mid-market rent. In addition the council expects the new neighbourhood to be highly energy efficient to support their aim of achieving net zero carbon by 2030.

The design team , comprising Collective Architecture, RaeburnFarquharBowen and Dusty Gedge (the Green Infrastructure Consultancy), are exploring the contribution that green roofs could make to a sustainable neighbourhood including:

  • Managing rainwater - green/ blue roofs can slow the run-off of surface water from the site, helping the neighbourhood to cope with extreme rainfall events likely to become more common as a result of climate change
  • Efficient use of space – less space may be needed at ground level for urban drainage schemes, potentially freeing up land for more housing
  • Reducing energy costs - green roofs can help cool buildings down in the summer and insulate them in the Winter
  • Providing greenspace– some of the roofs are likely to be accessible, so residents can enjoy contact with nature close to where they live, with benefits to their health and wellbeing
  • Providing important ‘stepping stone’ habitats for rare butterflies and other insects – new habitats can help some of the rare species on Arthur’s Seat colonise other parts of the city


We want to find out what these ‘nature based solutions’ cost in a real world setting, so the project will also employ quantity surveyors to estimate the short and ‘whole-life’ costs of different types of green roofs, from those that require ‘intensive’ management and allow public access, to those that require very little maintenance, but still provide a range of benefits.

Our ambition is that following completion, the green roofs and the range of other nature based solutions the design team are integrating into this site, will provide the best practice example of innovative green infrastructure in Scotland - all within a 15 walk of the Scottish Parliament!

Find out more about this project at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations Development and Procurement conference in Edinburgh in March.