Transforming grey roofs into a sea of green

Not everyone has a garden, or a field where they can indulge in planting greenery. However, this does not mean that a green space is totally out of the question, even in these cases.

In a country such as Malta where land is an expensive and scarce commodity, exploiting the roofs and facades of buildings sometimes can be our only choice of introducing a green element into our urban environment. spoke to Vanya Veras and Pia Vassallo from Vivacity, which supplies sustainable eco-friendly green roofs and walls.

Vanya began her career in Brussels in 1996 in the field of environmental policy, beginning her specialisation in waste management policy and practice in 1999. Pia is a communications professional with 20 years’ experience who has always been interested in the natural environment and environmental issues.

Vanya explains that a green roof is any roof covered by a layer of soil and plants. “It’s basically a natural insulation system which is the top reason for doing it. A green roof has many benefits for the building’s occupants, the community and the environment. This ‘living roof’ insulates your home, keeping it cool in summer and warm in winter, saving you a lot on electricity,” she says.

Given Malta’s challenging hot, dusty, windy Mediterranean climate, this system is drought, heat, wind and flood-tolerant, so it sustainably increases the amount of greenery on the island, Vanya says. “It is light, so you don’t need to reinforce your roof, needs very little water, and practically no maintenance. Once it develops into an ecosystem, it just lives on its own, bringing a breath of fresh air and a feeling of wellness,” she continues

Pia and Vanya have recently installed their first Maltese pitched green roof on a garden shed, demonstrating how lightweight it is, and have also installed two Maltese green roofs with more in the pipeline.

Pia adds that a Eurostat study found that almost a quarter of Malta’s land is covered by artificial surfaces: buildings, roads, pavements, parking lots. “Imagine if we could take all our empty grey roofs and transform them into a sea of green!” she smiles.

How exactly does a green roof work?

A green roof cools by shading and extracting excess heat from your home. The green roof goes on top of the waterproof membrane and includes a root barrier, a drainage layer and water storage layer topped by our modular green roof pillows with the irrigation system and the drought-resistant, hardy Mediterranean plants.

It is a living, nature-based solution for insulating buildings, lowering the urban heat island effect, for climate adaptation, CO2 absorption and avoidance, urban greening and increasing local biodiversity. 

Pia says that a green roof on commercial buildings will increase their marketability as well as increasing the sustainability of the occupant company both in terms of energy performance and social performance. “We have seen the man-hours of a public service increase by over 50 percent after installation of their green roof. It is a cost-efficient way of improving work ethic and increasing corporate sustainability scores,” she states.

Why are green roofs ecologically and environmentally-sound?

“We use a lot of hardy Mediterranean herbs in our planting schemes which are useful in your kitchen once established but will also keep unwanted insects away such as mosquitoes,” explains Vanya.

Pia stresses that they also increase biodiversity, strengthening the chances of our pollinator population.

“Green roofs improve air quality, as they absorb CO2 and release oxygen. The plants on green roofs also capture airborne pollutants and filter noxious greenhouse gases. This is vital when you consider that Malta’s CO2 emissions keep increasing and consequently, so has respiratory disease,” she says.

How does this translate into improving our mental health?

The majority of homes in Malta’s built-up areas have no garden but several have balconies and roofs. A green roof or green wall is an opportunity to maximise outdoor space and improve your lifestyle, says Pia.

“We all know that green spaces are important for our mental health and wellbeing. Green spaces have been shown to lower stress levels, increase happiness levels and overall health. As this green roof system is a balanced ecosystem and modular, it is flexible enough to be incorporated into any landscaping design and you can even include a vegetable patch!” she concludes.

More information about Vivacity may be found on their Facebook Page or website.