Living infrastructure in public spaces: Part 1

This blog is the first of several I’ll be writing about living infrastructure in public spaces. In this thematic series I’ll discuss a range of projects from around the world and try to shed some light on what makes ‘good’ green infrastructure in public spaces.

Of course I had to start with an Aussie one so here it is – Orange Regional Museum, a project Junglefy was lucky enough to be involved in.

Currently in the final stages of construction, the new Orange Regional Museum in central west NSW brings exhibition and public spaces together with the creation of a publicly accessible grass roof.

Building on the exhibition area, café and information centre inside the museum, the green roof, both literally and metaphorically, takes this public space to another level. Upon completion, the sloping structure will be a fully accessible, fenced lawn where members of the community can sit, engage with nature and view museum exhibits.

Living infrastructure that lasts

It is important living infrastructure projects work for the environment they’re in. It’s not enough just to look pretty; living infrastructure needs to be climate-appropriate, fit for purpose and long-lasting. This is especially true for publicly funded projects like the Orange Regional Museum.

Consequently, this project uses a combination of Tall Fescue and Kentucky Blue Grass. These grass types are a suitably hardy combination for regional NSW, as they are better at withstanding winter frosts and the searing summer heat than other varieties. The same combination is also used on the roof of Parliament House in Canberra.

Increased roof lifespan

Choose the right design and plants for your project and you unlock some pretty special benefits. That’s because green roofs act as a physical barrier between the elements and the external surface of your building. By covering the roof with organic and inorganic insulation, a green roof reduces the stress placed on the waterproofing membrane caused by temperature fluctuations, ultraviolet radiation and yearly wear-and-tear. [ref]Tolderlund, L. (2010). Design Guidelines and Maintenance Manual for Green Roofs in the Semi-Arid and Arid West, USA.[/ref]

This means reduced life-cycle costs associated with property upkeep. In a study of the benefits of green roofs in Portland, researchers found ‘green roofs do not need to be replaced as frequently as conventional roofs—they are typically considered to have a life expectancy of at least 40 years, as compared to 20 years for a conventional roof.’[ref]Clements, J., St Juliana, A., Davis, P. (2013). The Green Edge: How Commercial Property Investment in Green Infrastructure Creates Value. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Report. p.10.[/ref]

Improved thermal performance

Orange Regional Museum can look forward to improved thermal performance too. Acting as a barrier layer between the sun and the roof surface, green roofs can reduce heat gain in the summer by shading the building surface and acting as insulation. This helps reduce heat transfer and lower the ambient temperature on the roof surface, improving the performance of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.[ref]Department of Environment and Primary Industries for the State of Victoria. (2014). Growing Green Guide: A guide to green roofs, walls and facades in Melbourne and Victoria, Australia, Melbourne.[/ref]

Project specs

The Orange Regional Museum’s green roof uses more than 1200 rolls of turf, 400 millimetres of soil, geo-webbing, a drainage layer, and a layer of filter fabric to protect the drainage layer from the soil. Junglefy developed and laid the under-layers, specially formulated soil and geo-webbing while another company, Botanic Landscapes laid the turf.

It was a fun and unique project to work on and we are really pleased with the result. If you’re in the area, why not send us a photo you take on the roof via Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #junglefyourcities.

Read more on the Orange Regional Museum green roof.

Photo courtesy Central Western Daily