Going green over French heads

Our friends immediately across the channel are doing a fine job at the moment of demonstrating their environmentally-friendly credentials to the world.

Vancouver Convention Center's environmentally friendly, 6 acre green roof

Vancouver Convention Center’s environmentally friendly, 6 acre green roof shows how it can be done

Previously we highlighted the addition of a wind turbine (and other renewable energy measures) that have been deployed at the Eiffel Tower. Of course, that’s more symbolic than world changing, but it does set out French society’s stall with regard to renewables.

Now a much more significant step has been revealed by the French government; planning laws which make it obligatory to put either plants or solar panels on the roofs of new commercial buildings.

That’s quite a statement of intent. It’s not all of the roof that must be covered and it’s only new commercial buildings that it will apply to, but it’s an important step towards making such behaviour normal, in both commercial and domestic settings.

We’re all going to have to think more about what we are going to do to play our part in the change to renewable energy and heat sources as the opportunities arise. France is being really quite pro-active here and it sets the groundwork for such requirements to be spread into other areas of building or renovation.

It’s a fairly radical step without being hugely onerous on anyone. But as well as demonstrating to everyone that this is the direction of travel for construction in the years to come, it has immediate practical benefits. Green roofs absorb rainfall, cutting down on run-off that can lead to flooding (especially as the world gets warmer and wetter) as well as providing insulation by trapping heat that might otherwise be lost from the building or forced to remain inside by less environmentally friendly technologies, such as manufactured lagging.

If developers or building owners don’t want to look up at a lush rooftop, they can opt for solar panels in that space, with all the attendant benefits.

Undoubtedly there will be learning to be done, because a proliferation of green rooftops will result in a variety of outcomes! The expertise to install and maintain them will need to spread, but it has already been demonstrated how it can be done and even how the space might be used for producing food or other useful crops

This is pretty forward-thinking stuff. It does make you wonder though how ready we are to take such a step in the UK? When the majority of new homes are still built brick by brick by traditional methods instead of churned out of a factory using timber and high efficiency panels, what hope is there that we’ll be making green rooftops compulsory any time soon?

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