Green Roofs - an Aussie Perspective

By Graeme Hopkins - Associate Professor at the Univeristy of Adelaide; Principal Urban Designer, Government of South Australia



Architect and landscape architect Graeme Hopkins and his partner Christine Goodwin, from South Australian based design firm Fifth Creek Studio, recently visited a number of North Island sites looking at the development of the green roof industry here. Back in Adelaide their special interest is in creating bushtops, or sustainable habitats for birds, insects and small animals such as reptiles, via green roofs and living walls.Green Roof Systems 1

In Palmerston North they met with Waterproofing Systems’ John Stallard and Chris Blenkiron to exchange information about green roof developments either side of the Tasman. They were particularly interested in the Bentonite waterproofing system being successfully developed here, and its potential application on green roofs and other situations in the relatively dry climate experienced in most of Australia.

Graeme Hopkins says that a highlight of their trip was a visit with Ben Waugh of Waterproofing Systems NZ Ltd to the Bay of Islands green roof project, featuring two neighbouring houses, designed by Gary Underwood. Waterproofing Systems NZ Ltd worked closely with the designer on this unique project to achieve a range of sustainability targets. Property owner Antonio Pasquale explained the benefits he and his family were already finding, such as year-round even temperatures and sound insulation. Antonio says, “This is the most evenly insulated house I have ever experienced”.



He says that “from a distance the houses blend almost completely into their setting”. Antonio reported that the rooftop planting had been a great success, with virtually no plant losses even through the recent summer with reduced rainfall. Gary Underwood explains that there has been virtually no rainwater runoff from the green roof into the stormwater system, thanks to the plants’ take up of the water. Graeme says that this New Zealand experience is supported by recent international research and clearly demonstrates the water conserving qualities of green roof systems.

Graeme Hopkins reports that as well as the exciting work of Waterproofing Systems, other vital research is happening in New Zealand, such as the University of Auckland’s experimental green roof that is being monitored and studied by Engineering students and staff. He says that this research is in many ways ahead of current Australian research, and that this data will be valuable for future development by the industry. Graeme says that the way forward is for researchers, designers and the industry to work collaboratively to continue developing green roofs for both domestic and commercial markets. He says that “this way not only are technical issues such as waterproofing developed, but through clever design sustainable green roofs that have increased biodiversity can be integrated into urban and city environments”.


Green Roof Systems detail Cutaway




Graeme Hopkins is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at The University of Adelaide, and Principal Urban Designer for Planning SA with a brief to integrate sustainable urban design such as green roofs and living walls into the city. The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects website features the recent award winning Hocking Place Bushtop project by Fifth Creek Studio -

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