Going above and beyond in Melbourne

Friday 05 Jul 2013

HASSELL completes series of verdant roof gardens for research and teaching facility

Designed by HASSELL, Burnley Living Roofs is the Melbourne University’s purpose-built, green roof technology research and teaching facility. Installed on the top of the Burnley Campus administrative building, the facility comprises three separate roofs, providing cleverly integrated spaces that collectively allow for the full spectrum of activities undertaken by the University’s Green Infrastructure Research Group in relation to their green roof research and advocacy program. The spaces are carefully structured to allow for the specific functional objectives assigned to each roof.

The Research Roof has been designed as an ephemeral testing facility for the urban horticulture team. It allows for multiple experiments to be undertaken concurrently, with four trial research plots that are framed by raised walkways and individual drainage points enabling water quality research. These experiments are already underway, and allow for the effects of even minor tweaks in inputs to be monitored. It is anticipated that the garden plots will also have a positive insulation effect on the building. Monitoring of their performance in this capacity will be conducted over time.

The Biodiversity Roof is designed as a garden requiring minimal human intervention, with the aim to provide a protected space for experimentation with Australian native plants as urban habitat that encourages colonisation and supports biodiversity.

The Demonstration Roof is an exhibition and interpretive space for day-to-day educational activities. Its design evolved through the layering of multiple functional objectives - starting with the idea that the whole green roof was a wedge, grading from a shallow to a deep profile. It is then subdivided into irrigated and non-irrigated territories, establishing diverse planting zones. Superimposed over the wedge, a circular walkway encounters each micro plant community and includes seating edges and a number of ‘pockets’ of intimate space for teaching. A series of bright red lines whimsically thread through the garden, sometimes tying together these experiences, at other times encapsulating fragments of other experimental landscape zones. As the facility’s showcase space, the bold and arresting design draws attention and creates a memorable experience for those who view it, supporting the advocacy objectives of the program.

Located directly adjacent to a shared kitchen, dining, meeting and teaching space the Demonstration Roof provides an immediate opportunity for the internal functions of the building to be extended outside onto the rooftop.

The Burnley Living Roofs is Australia’s first research, demonstration and teaching facility for green roof application in Australian conditions. The design and development of the facility was the result of a true collaboration between Melbourne University’s horticultural and green roof technology experts and the HASSELL multidisciplinary design team. The research undertaken at the facility is contributing to the development of Australia’s national guidelines for the future design and implementation of green roofs.

The facility’s Demonstration Roof provides a forum for the University of Melbourne to reach out to the wider community, as an advocate for the broad application of green roofs in Australia. It seeks to gain exposure by attracting the interest of academics, the design community, stakeholders in sustainable development, and the media, to promote discussion and education on green infrastructure and living buildings.

The Demonstration Roof has been almost entirely fabricated and assembled in a factory off-site and then reassembled on the rooftop, representing an innovation in design, research and construction methods.

From brief development to its physical execution, sustainability has been the driver for the Burnley Living Roofs project. As well as seeking to increase public awareness through advocacy, and technical knowledge though research, the three separate roofs that comprise the facility have the following specific sustainability features:

On the Research Roof, stormwater is captured and re-used for experiments into the effects on stormwater quality. In addition, various green roof profiles are being used as building insulation devices. Their effectiveness will be compared and monitored over time. Results of these experiments will directly contribute to the growing body of knowledge about green roofs and will inform their future application.

The Biodiversity Roof creates bird, insect and reptile habitat through the application of plants indigenous to Melbourne, and the installation of diverse natural and recycled elements including logs, sticks, roof tiles and different aggregate types. A small ephemeral stream has been created through the direction of water from a higher roof into a pond that drains across the Biodiversity Roof. The anticipated colonisation of these animals will be observed over time.

The Demonstration Roof is being used as an advocacy, education and teaching facility to showcase green roof technology and the diversity, aesthetics and amenity of different green roof substrates and plants to students and visiting academics, as well as the design and construction industries. It aims to inform the urban development industry on the types of green roofs that are possible given different building constraints, such as roof weight loading, access, irrigation; to encourage a change in future development practices where green roofs can be integrated to deliver sustainable benefits for our cities.

Experiments and monitoring have commenced on site and the results will be incorporated within various research projects published or otherwise disseminated by the University.

Storm water collection, reuse and monitoring in terms of storm water quality and key factors affecting this are currently being undertaken. Monitoring of the effectiveness of various green roof profiles as building insulation is being undertaken. It is anticipated that this will measurably reduce the cost of heating and cooling of the building - technical knowledge that, as green roof solutions are taken up more broadly across urban environments, has the potential to significantly reduce energy use.

Key Facts:

Sustainable Buildings

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