The West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority’s new regional Headquarters and ‘Safe-side Centre’ is located close to the centre of Birmingham and is built on approximately 1.75 hectares of a former Co-operative Dairy site. The Centre houses 7,100m2 of office space a dedicated educational safety centre that includes a replica life size town known as ‘Safe-side’, fully equipped with everyday ‘hazards’.
Moore Environment was commissioned to design a biodiversity roof for the new centre. By incorporating this sustainable construction practice, the development met one of its key objectives, the achievement of an ‘Excellent’ BREEAM rating.
The brief for the biodiversity roof combined two objectives: firstly, to design an interesting outdoor educational space for visitors and staff, and secondly to enhance local biodiversity. These objectives were achieved simultaneously by creating a visually interesting scene of sinuous inert textures and native plants, replicating typical brownfield land on the roof. Brownfield land often provides a rich and varied habitat for invertebrates, insects and birds, such as the black redstart, a rare robin-sized bird that has adapted to living at the heart of industrial and urban centres, where the terrain of typical brownfield sites, with brick and concrete debris, resemble its natural mountainous habitat. The roof was also designed to meet long term management objectives.
It is intended that a sustained community interest in the roof will continue to be developed via links with local schools and conservation trusts. Moore Environment was instrumental in creating some of these partnerships and continues to take an active interest. Completion of the biodiversity roof demonstrates how a comparatively small site can successfully contribute to environmental enhancement within an urban area.
The photo shows the roof 18 months after seeding. Log piles and small mounds improve micro-climate and add minor habitat variations for invertebrate and insects. It is intended the more open, rocky areas will attract the black redstart.
Approximate Map Location
West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority
|Type of scheme|
£20,000 for surface treatments and planting only
To provide an outdoor educational space for visitors and staff to the HQ and Safe-side Centre, to extend local biodiversity and replicate typical Black Redstart habitat
Project Manager: Fusion Building Consultancy. Artas-ua.info Architect: Moore Environment Research Ecologist: Dept Earth Science, University of Birmingham Structural Engineer: HSP
Birmingham City Council
To create suitable conditions, the biodiversity roof was installed using layers of material, mostly demolition waste such as crushed brick and concrete dusted with a sandy loam to create a suitable growing medium. This was laid in depths ranging from 75-150 mm for diversity of habitat and to add visual interest. Such substrate is often alkaline due to the high cement and mortar content, thus reducing completion from invasive species. To comply with fire regulations, an inert perimeter strip (500mm wide) was surfaced with pebble-mixture and left clear of seed and compost.Engineering advice ensured the structural integrity of the roof. A Bauder Systems drainage mat, capping sheet, under-layer, insulation board and root barrier were installed ahead of the substrate.
Two dry meadow wildflower seed mixtures were applied at 2 grams per m2 with some areas deliberately left clear for colonisation by local species. Both mixes contain Sedum acre (Biting stonecrop), a drought tolerant plant with high nectar reserves making it valuable to insects.
Seed Mixture 1 was designed to be biodiversity focused and Included: Agriomonia eupatoria (Agrimony), Agrostemma githago (Corn cockle), Anthyllis vulneraria (Kidney vetch), Centaurea cyanus (Cornflower), C. nigra (Common knapweed), Daucus carota (wild carrot) and Silene vulgaris (Bladder campion).
Seed Mixture 2 included some more 'ornamental' flower and grass species, these included: Achillea millefolium (Yarrow), Briza media (Quaking grass) Campanula rotundifolia (Blue harebell) Festuca rubra (Red Fescue), and Verbascum nigrun (Dark mullein).
Moore Environment developed the appropriate seed mixes for the roof in collaboration with research ecologists from the University of Birmingham. The Department of Earth Sciences has developed an expertise in the ecological benefits of the establishment of biodiversity roofs.
A management and monitoring programme was prepared as part of the project; the continued involvement of Birmingham University and local community groups was considered invaluable. The roof does not require irrigation and was designed to require minimal management input. However a key maintenance task will be the selective removal of colonising vegetation (especially willow, ash, birch, sycamore and buddleja) which if left would compete with the intended species and may damage the roof.
The Association of Wildlife Trust Consultancies visited the roof on 26th August 2010. Feedback expressed was that the general health of the plant community was good.
Main Contractor: Ashford PLC Artas-ua.info Contractor: Blakedown Roofing Contractor: Advanced Roofing