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.

20 Raingardens for Kinross in 2020

February's blog comes from SGIF member and raingarden expert, Dr Brian D'Arcy. Here, he introduces a fantastic new community-based raingarden initiative to install 20 raingardens in and around Kinross in 2020:

What is a raingarden?

“An area of vegetation designed to accept rainfall runoff”

  • These can be large scale ‘community raingardens’ – features draining a road or several properties.
  • Or can be small scale (e.g. house plot)

Runoff is the rain draining from the roof, yard, driveway of a property, or from roads, fields, forests etc elsewhere.  The rainwater draining from roads and other surfaces mobilises pollutants, as well as creating a flood risk.  The raingardens use the natural self-purification properties of plants, sunlight and soils, to breakdown pollutants such as traces of oil in runoff. The features also have far more storage for rainstorm flood waters than conventional gullies and pipes.

There are several examples in Kinross-shire, as below, but a lot of scope for more:


Wildflower swale (no road gully or drainage pipes on either side of the road) and a wetland, West Kinross


Raingarden soakaway and raised bed raingarden Kinnesswood, and feature at commercial unit, West Kinross

The Kinross-shire Civic Trust raingardens challenge

The Civic Trust has advocated better, more attractive and effectively drained houses and other developments in and around Kinross for many years.  Place-making has become an in-vogue term in town planning, but the scope for raingardens is often overlooked. By setting the modest challenge to have 20 raingardens in 2020, the Trust is working with a range of local organisations to bring volunteer enthusiasm, backed by professional expertise and experience, to actively promote raingardens.

The Trust is encouraging properties across Kinross-shire to consider creating raingardens on their premises.  Community benefits can include reduced risks of local flooding of properties and roads; the green space is the safest place for water from intense rainstorms to linger whilst harmlessly draining away. Other benefits can be habitat creation and habitat linkage.  Especially in the older parts of town, taking the roof or driveway drainage out of the sewer system will help reduce sewer overflows during intensive rainstorms (an increasing problem with climate change in Britain). The Trust is also working to create a Raingardens Trail in West Kinross, promoting the existing features in dialogue with owner-occupiers (Perth and Kinross Council and local commercial sites).

What are other places doing?

Road traffic calming build-outs, and landscaping features in pedestrianised streets, are increasingly being created by local councils as multi-purpose features which add greenery and interest to the district.  We would like to see this in Kinross-shire too.


Cardiff (left, 1-2) – why not Kinross-shire?                                                            Melbourne

Green places are now recognised as important for a sense of well-being.  Perth and Kinross could achieve similar successes.

How are we trying to encourage raingardens?

With support from local community groups, Scottish Water, Perth and Kinross Council, and SEPA, the Civic Trust hopes to facilitate the creation of 20 or more raingardens in Kinross-shire in 2020.  The aim is to exemplify the opportunities with actual examples of good practice and publish that in new community publications, in magazines and blogs.  The progress will be tracked and reported regularly in the Kinross Newsletter, through the Scottish Green Infrastructure Forum and their 10,000 Raingardens for Scotland campaign and on .

We welcome opportunities to work with developers trying to maximise benefits from the requirements to drain their properties, and also interested individuals.

If you are interested, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Village Elves Hideaway

This month, to get us into the festive spirit, we thought we'd share a great example of environmental sustainability and green infrastructure from Finnish Lapland - the Village Elves Hideaway, particularly the green roof on Wise Elf's House!. 

For the full article, images and inspiration, click here:

Green Infrastructure Development of the Year award

The Scottish Home Awards is Scotland’s first and foremost awards programme for new build housing in Scotland. Every year since 2005, it promotes the high-quality work of Scottish housebuilders via a wide ranging programme which is operated free from commercial influence and judged by a highly experienced and independent judging panel.

The objectives of the Scottish Home Awards are to provide an all-inclusive programme which :-

  • Improves the perception of housebuilding within the general public by profiling high quality construction and customer service.
  • Rewards high performing teams with industry wide recognition and an opportunity to celebrate at our annual awards dinner.
  • Recognises excellence in design, construction and team working

Scottish Natural Heritage are delighted to be announcing their sponsorship of a “Green Infrastructure Development of the Year Award” as part of the 2020 Scottish Homes Awards. This is a brand new award that will recognise the efforts of a private developer or housing association to deliver multi-functional green and blue infrastructure as part of a nature rich, high quality housing development.

Applicants are encouraged to demonstrate how the green and blue infrastructure elements of their development delivers functions such as surface water management and climate resilience, habitats for wildlife, outdoor play and learning and opportunities to connect people and nature.

For more information, and to apply click here.


School Raingardens in North Lanarkshire

Novembers blog comes from Emilie Wadsworth at Central Scotland Green Network Trust, part of the team leading on the 10,000 Raingardens for Scotland campaign on behalf of SGIF:

Throughout 2019, North Lanarkshire Council, Central Scotland Green Network Trust and the 10,000 Raingardens for Scotland project have been working on an innovative school raingarden project.

The aim is to install a range of raingarden features within schools that suffer from flooding resulting in their playground being unusable at certain times of the year. Alongside this, and educational programme is being run to teach the pupils about environmental issues such as flooding, pollution and the impacts that urban expansion and development can have of the water cycle. They learn about how these can be reduced through the use of raingardens, and nature-based surface water management interventions, and the advantages that these can have over traditional pipes and drains.

The children are integral to the design and location of the raingardens to be installed at their school. During the class sessions, they identify areas of flooding in the school grounds, from puddles, to muddy swamps on the grass, and from blocked drains to temporary “streams” that run across the grounds during or just after rainfall. Following this, they are involved in a co-design workshop where they start to think of solutions to the problems, using examples from across the world.

So far, five primary schools have been involved, with concept designs produced for each one. Following discussions with the council, teachers and maintenance staff, some designs will be worked up in to detailed plans and installed in early 2020. The educational sessions will be finalised and supplemented so that they can be run by teachers in their own classrooms and will become an online resource with clear links to the Eco-school curriculum highlighted, for any schools to use.