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Currently, in the UK’s public and private sectors, there is increasing demand for more sustainable and energy efficient buildings. National policy is in place to promote the protection of wildlife, the enhancement of biodiversity, the management of flood risk and to improve the thermal efficiency of buildings.

Wildlife protection

The principle piece of wildlife legislation in the UK, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) provides, among other things, varying degrees of protection to a wide variety of plants and animals some of which will live, nest or roost on or within buildings. For example all wild birds and all species of bat found in Britain are protected by the Act. From the point of view of buildings and biodiversity, this legislation means that any works that may impact on nesting birds or roosting bats needs very careful consideration. Mitigation for the loss of nesting or roosting habitat may be required. Green roofs, green walls and complementary features can all play a role in this context. To find out further information please click here.

The Water Framework Directive

The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) was transposed into UK national legislation in December 2003. The Directive encourages a more sustainable approach to water management. Of particular relevance in the context of Building Greener, is the requirement for the control of surface water discharges. This may effectively preclude the use of the traditional approach to drainage and will require the SUDS philosophy to be adopted. Green roofs can be used as a source control technique within a sustainable drainage system.

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Planning policy framework

A number of Planning Policy Statements (PPS) provide support for the inclusion of green roofs, green walls and complementary features within buildings. Examples include:

PPS9 (Biodiversity and Geological Conservation) – Focuses primarily on the protection of statutory and non statutory designated wildlife sites. However, importantly it does seek to strengthen the protection given to networks of habitat, including wastelands, woodlands and grasslands, including those within urban areas.

PPS25 (Development and Flood Risk) – Advises that restriction and reduction of surface water runoff can be encouraged by the provision of sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) [for Scotland SPP7: Planning and Flooding, Wales TAN15: Development and Flood Risk, Northern Ireland PPS15: Planning and Flood Risk]

PPS3 (Housing) – The aim of this statement “…is that the planning system is used to its maximum effect to ensure the delivery of decent homes that are well-designed, make best use of land, are energy efficient, make the most of new building technologies and help to deliver sustainable development”

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Biodiversity action planning

At the 1992 UNCED conference in Rio, the UK Government signed up to the Convention on Biological Diversity and as a result produced Biodiversity: The UK Action Plan (Department of the Environment, 1994). Since, biodiversity action plans (BAPs) have been produced at all levels; national, regional, local and even at the company level. These provide a guide to the priorities for wildlife conservation, the action that needs to be taken and the resources that will be required. Numerous species that can benefit from green roofs, green walls and complementary features, including species of bat, black redstarts, peregrine falcons, house sparrows and stag beetles, are included within the action plans.

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Building Regulations and Standards

The UK Building Regulations contain no direct reference to green roofs, only to the general standards of roof construction. Green roofs can be constructed to meet these standards.

Part L of the Building Regulations (updated in 2006) aims to substantially increase the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings. Green roofs and walls can make a contribution towards increased insulation, especially where retrofitted on to older, lightweight, and poorly insulated buildings.

In the absence of any British Standards, most designers, manufacturers and installers are currently relying on the German Landscape Development Research Society (FFL) guidelines for the design and construction of green roofs (FFL, 2002).

Other initiatives

Within the construction industry a variety of environmental assessment tools exist that can indirectly promote the use of green roofs, green walls and complementary features. These include BREEAM and Ecohomes, CEEQUAL and NEAT.


FFL (2002)
Guidelines for planning, execution and upkeep of green sites
Research Association for Landscape Development and Landscape Construction, Forschungsgesellschaft Landschaftsentwicklung Landschaftsbau e.V, (FFL), Release 2002 (English version), Germany Funktionen und Wirkungen der Dachbegrunung, Hochschle fur Technik Rapperswil, Abteilung Landschaftsarchitektur, <>