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Gary Grant of The Green Infrastructure Consultancy on green roofs, living walls and rain gardens

Gary Grant of The Green Infrastructure Consultancy Discusses Green Roofs, Living Walls and Rain Gardens.

Green roofs, living walls, and rain gardens are innovative solutions that promote sustainability and enhance urban environments. Green roofs, covered in vegetation, provide numerous benefits. They improve air quality, reduce stormwater runoff, and help insulate buildings, reducing energy consumption. Living walls, vertical gardens installed on building facades, add greenery to limited spaces, improving aesthetics and air quality. They also provide thermal insulation and reduce noise pollution. Rain gardens, designed to capture and filter rainwater, help mitigate flooding and recharge groundwater. They create habitats for wildlife and add natural beauty to urban areas. Together, these green infrastructure elements contribute to a healthier, greener, and more resilient urban landscape

Gary Grant of The Green Infrastructure Consultancy on green roofs, living walls and rain gardens

PAUL:Okay, Gary, thanks very much for joining me on this podcast, the Rethink What Matters podcast, where, you know, we’re really about trying to bring the economy, the ecology and everyone into alignment. As I say, once again, thanks very much Gary from Green Infrastructure Consultancy.

GARY:Good to be here, Paul.

PAUL:Yeah, and we’re going to be talking about green roofs, living walls, and rain gardens. And I’ve just seen some fantastic projects on your website, really great stuff, really big projects, really great things that you’re doing there at Meadow Bank Development there, and Team London Bridge, the Great London Authority, the David Attenborough Building, PwC More London. And I think as a subject, it’s absolutely spot on for what we’re all about, again, bringing the economy, the ecology and everyone into alignment. And so I did a quick little bit of research just to look at all the benefits of this. And there are vast, there are many, there’s storm water management, habitat creation, energy efficiency, air quality improvement, biodiversity enhancement, roof longevity, noise reduction, aesthetic appeal, mental health benefits, groundwater recharge and educational opportunities. So, this is just brilliant for us. So, yeah, perhaps Gary, you give us a little bit of an introduction to yourself and your journey that got you started on your interest in green roofs, living walls and rain gardens.

GARY:Well, thanks for that, Paul. That’s a pretty good list, isn’t it, of benefits? You can’t really argue with that. So it’s an overwhelming argument in favour of urban greening. Plenty of evidence nowand lots of peer reviewed scientific papers to back it up. So it’s not just the opinion of a few people, it’s been shown to be real. So we’re in a very strong position now.

            I used to work for London Wildlife Trust back in the 1980s, and the idea of urban ecology and urban nature was a little bit fringe in those days. People all thought that towns and cities should be grey and all the nature should be out in the countryside. And there’s still some people who perhaps think that way. They’re a little surprised about urban biodiversity, urban greening. So around London there are a few little bits and pieces that were left behind. They weren’t all built on, and there were a few nature reserves and so on. So it was about hanging on to those places before they were built on, if you like. So it wasn’t like now where we’re saying we want to restore nature, it was more about hanging on to nature.

            But through that process, I started to think about, well, yes, we could restore nature here and there. And so I first got involved in green roofs back in the early 90s, 1990s. There’s an architecture firm called Archetype that would build schools and visitor centres and museums. And we put a green roof on the Horniman Museum Extension. So it’s a wooden building, a little green roof, Nordic style green roof on there, and I didn’t really know very much about it, but it just seemed the right thing to do. From my point of view, I didn’t know all about the benefits, I just wanted to put wildflowers on a roof. And so that was one of the first ones I got involved with. And over the years, there weren’t that many opportunities.

However, in the 2000s, there was a renewed interest in green roofs, because people like Dusty Gedge have been to Switzerland and they’d seen that the Swiss and the Germans were already doing this kind of thing. And the idea at that point was when you lose a bit of waste ground, which is full of wildlife, maybe you put the habitat on the building that’s replacing the waste ground.

            So that was the thinking back then, and so there was a renewed interest. And then I wrote a report for Natural England in 2003. I think it was English Nature in those days, Natural England. A report on green roofs in 2003. So, I won the contract to write that, wrote that report which was a review. And then in 2008, the Mayor of London started, as a result of all the campaigning that had been going on in London, the Mayor of London thought, well yes, this is a good thing. So there was an expectation after 2009 that the centre of London should have green roofs, and the local authorities started to get involved. And I joined a firm called Green Roof Consultancy around about 2009 which was involved in all that. And of course, later on, we changed the name of the company to the Green Infrastructure Consultancy, because we got involved in green walls and rain gardens and planning and policy and all sorts of bits and pieces to do with urban greening. So it spread from the roofs and now, it’s all sorts of things.

PAUL:What was driving it at the time? Was it the aesthetic of it that was driving it? Was it people wanting to have, obviously, more greener spaces because they’re nicer to live with? People that recognise that nature’s a good thing? Was it less about what we’re all looking at today, which is trying to address climate warming?

GARY:Yeah well, of course climate change was known about then, but it wasn’t high on the agenda. I mean, from my point of view, I wanted more wildlife habitat, so that’s where I was coming from. I suppose people were… the way architects would describe it back then was this footprint replacement. So the idea is, you’ve got a bit of ground you build on, you lift that ground up and put it on the top of the roof. So it’s almost a way of minimising your overall impact, if you like. Yeah, but it wasn’t really about aesthetics. But of course, designers are about aesthetics, so yeah that’s very important, but it’s a very good question. The sustainable drainage agenda wasn’t really there back in those days, and yet, that is an important part of it, isn’t it?

PAUL:It’s really coming to its own then. It’s really finding its place. I mean, it’s going to be something which everyone’s going to want to do. I was speaking with somebody today about permaculture.

GARY:Oh, yeah.

PAUL:And that seems quite related to this as well. Maybe less on roofs and walls and things, but you can see how everybody’s trying to get nature back into society, back into our living spaces.

GARY:Yeah, well, of course permaculture involves people growing food. And you can have a roof garden, of course, so green roofs are not just the lightweight ones, they’re also gardens which you can access. And growing food on roofs is a big thing across the world. There are people in some parts of the States, this is a big deal on the continent, growing food on buildings. In China, you have this as well. It is a thing…

PAUL:…that has taken off as well. Living walls and rain gardens, predominantly, is a business oriented thing. That’s really what we’re talking about here, isn’t it? How businesses can use it and then whether that’s in public spaces or in private spaces, I guess. So most of the projects, I think, if I understand this correctly, they’re public They’re public projects. PwC, we saw there.

GARY:Well, no, we’ve worked with policy with public bodies like the Mayor of London and so on, but most projects are private projects. So for instance, the David Attenborough building, which is a refurbished 1970s building owned by the University of Cambridge.

PAUl: Right.

GARY:And that project, that building is reinforced concrete so re-retrofitting is easier than it is on some buildings because it’s a very strong building. And the brief there was, let’s get biodiversity on the building.


GARY:So that was for the University of Cambridge. So it’s quite a sophisticated client. But actually, to begin with, there were plans to perhaps have green roofs which weren’t as biodiverse as they could be. So our role was to really push that and have a high diversity of planting. So that’s a private project. A lot of the developments in Central London, like the Elephant Park, which is in South London, their Elephant Castle, that’s all new housing, that all has green roofs, because the Planning Body, which is Borough of South, well, they do require green roofs.


GARY:So that’s private. Sometime, people in the client group aren’t perhaps, aren’t aware of this, but they have to do it anyway now in London.

PAUL:I think there are some mandatory reporting requirements coming in now, I think, aren’t there?

GARY:Planning requirements as well to get planning permission in Central London for a new building, you need to put a green roof on it.


GARY:Unless there’s a good reason why you can’t. There’s an expectation, that’s the default position now. So in Central London, there are billions of square meters of green roofs now.

PAUL:Okay, that’s great. So, obviously, they need to be maintained, don’t they? So it’s all right building it, but then, what are the issues in maintaining it because I can’t manage a pot plant, much less a green roof.

GARY:(Laughs) So, well, it depends on what it is, really. So if it’s what we call extensive, that is relatively lightweight, relatively self-sustaining. And so the idea is, you just go up there now and then just to make sure everything’s okay. Pull up a few unwanted plants. There are plants that tend to spread like buddleja and they can cause problems, wind-borne weeds and so pull those up, unblock the drains and so on. So very minimal, no maintenance, that has minimal maintenance. But any roof should be looked at, anyway.

PAUL:And that stays with specific plants.

GARY:Very low growing, drought tolerant, you don’t irrigate, it just looks after itself. And that’s the key to it, having the right drought tolerant plants, sedums or other wildflowers that don’t need much looking after. But of course, if it’s a garden, that’s a bit different. You need people, potentially, going there frequently or regularly to just keep an eye on it because we know gardens do fall apart. But a garden is also used quite a bit, isn’t it? It’s not really a burden, it’s just an amenity that needs looking after.

PAUL:I was going to ask, actually, to what extent are these gardens actually used? Rather than just being alone at the top of a building.

GARY:Well, you could have lawns, although they’re not that common because, of course, they need to be mowed. But most roof gardens are paved areas mixed with seating and planting. You know, they are very popular. I mean, they’re a great place obviously to have a party, an event. But you’ll find that roof gardens in London are… I mean, there are one or two open to the public as well. In Venture Street, we’ve got a roof garden there which is open to the public. But most of there are very well used because that’s a great spot to have your lunch, a great place to have your meetings during the day, special events. So, it really adds a lot to a building.

PAUL:Right. Okay. So what are the challenges then? Or what are the prerequisites for having a roof garden? Maybe you’re in an older building, a company market in an older building, do you think we’d want to do this? Are there some obvious things I can look for to see if, you know, one might think before I get consultants in?

GARY:Well, yeah, the first thing you need to know is whether or not you’ve got the strength in the building to take the weight. So before you do anything else, you need a structural engineer to let you know how much loading there is that’s available. Quite a lot of older buildings are surprisingly strong. So, I used to work on a building that used to be a printing works from the 50s. Plenty of strength in there, no problem putting a roof garden on. But of course, other buildings may not have the strength in the structure to take that. Absolutely, for retrofitting older buildings, that can be a challenge to be able to take all that weight. But it can often be done. I mean, we estimate that a third of the commercial buildings in London could be retrofitted with extensive green roofs. And there are a few clues as well. So, for instance, if you see a building with paving slabs on it which are holding down the insulation, that’s a common start on a flat roof. Those paving slabs weighs more or less the same as an extensive green roof. So you’d know already if you were to swap over the paving slabs with the green roof, you would know. Obviously, it needs to be confirmed by an engineer but chances are, you can do that. So there’s quite a lot of potential for retrofit. And of course, with new buildings, though there’s an extra cost, it shouldn’t really be a problem for the architect and structural engineers to design these things into the building. That shouldn’t be a problem at all.

PAUL:Yeah, brilliant. And so we’ve got the benefit there then of habitat creation?


PAUL:Energy efficiency as well, as it’s a natural insulator up there.

GARY:Yes, but it’s better to think of it this way. When you have soil and vegetation, in summer, you get evaporative cooling. There’s a shade effect, you’ve got evaporative cooling. That actively cools a building in summer, having soil, vegetation on it.

PAUL:That’s a good point.

GARY:So that really is a significant thing. And there’s an interesting variation on extensive rain roofs called solar green roofs or bio-solar roofs where you combine PVs with the extensive green roof and that means you get your cooling from the green roof which increases the efficiency of the PV. So that’s a really interesting story and worth having a look at.

PAUL:Solar panels. Is this solar panel with the green roofs?

GARY:Solar panels combined with the green roof and it’s the cooling which is the thing. Of course, the rain that lands on that roof is partially absorbed in that soil and it’s that which evaporates later on, giving you the cooling.

PAUL:Right. Okay.

GARY:So that’s the energy side, it’s mainly about shade and cooling.

PAUL:Right, so sort of the infrastructure of the buildings and nature have started to work together.


PAUL: It’s really cool. I love that.

GARY:Literally cool, yeah.

PAUL:(Laughs) Literally cooling. So you know, obviously nice places, great for productivity, right? I mean we all like a nice space to work in. Living walls. We’re talking about green roofs, living walls, vertical gardens. I guess there must be some limitations to a way you can put a living wall, I mean, you just can’t put one up anyway. 

GARY:True. But in some ways, there are more possibilities because you can usually find a way to take the weight with the roof, there may be situations where you can’t have a green roof. But most walls can be modified to transfer the weight. You can use steel subframes or so on to spread to low bearing parts of the wall. Or you can transfer the weight down the wall. Or you can grow lightweight climbing plants on trellises. So there’s usually a way of vegetating a wall. Obviously you don’t want to cover windows. But it doesn’t really matter what direction the wall is facing in because you can choose plants that are, say, shade tolerant for north facing, or don’t mind the extra sun for south-facing, or in between for east and west. So there’s a lot of possibilities for vegetating vertically. And of course, the great thing about that is you get the cooling, which we already talked about. But people can see it.


GARY:And it’s relatively inexpensive compared to… well, it depends what it is. If it’s just climbing plants, that’s very, very inexpensive and easy to look after. If it’s what we call modular green walls, intensive green walls, that’s a different story. You know, where you’re irrigating, you’ve got thousands of plants in modules, that’s a lot more evolved. But you know, it still can be good value for money as long as you can afford the maintenance.

PAUL:And it’s really about the aesthetic appeal of it. It’s about the working space. It’s about creating a nice environment. Mostly there’s the benefits to the environment and cleaning the air as well. Are they growing in popularity? Are more companies doing vertical walls?

GARY:The first green wall I worked on was at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherds Bush.  So that’s 2006 or 2007. And at the time, the industry for what we call modular green walls didn’t exist in the UK. But since then, and we brought products in from Canada, I think it was. But since then, several companies have established themselves to provide green walls. There are 3 or 4 quite large companies there doing this and a few other smaller ones. And I’m seeing green walls pop up all over the place. Shopping centres now you’ll see green walls. Hotels, and then of course, the climbing plants on schools are very popular because it’s a way of of, as you say, intercepting air pollution as well. Private dwellings, and also interior planting with green walls as well is very popular, you know, just using house plants but really getting a spectacular effect. I think the agenda there is about health and wellbeing, lowering blood pressure, that kind of thing.

PAUL:It’s nice to be around living things.


PAUL:Nature. We probably just absorb that without realising it. You know. Noise reduction as well, I guess.

GARY:Yeah, that’s right. The green wall in Shepherd’s Bush was really a barrier between the residential area, Terrace Housing, and the shopping centre. So that was the purpose of that green wall, actually. One of the first ones in the UK that was a noise and visual barrier.

PAUL:So many benefits to this, really, isn’t there? And I think, well, it’s not really a domestic thing at the moment, is it? As opposed against things getting cheaper as more smaller businesses doing it and maybe…

GARY:There are quite a lot of people who have this home now. So if you’ve got the money, you can go out to one of the firms and do it. But you can go out and buy green wall modules as a DIY exercise. So, you know, some of the bigger suppliers actually sell, you know, you can go on their website and buy panels, fix your own garage or your own back wall and plant them yourself. It is something that can be literally be the size of a table or cover a whole building. You know, scale.

PAUL:Yeah, I guess. I suppose there are climbers on, put climbers on both sides of the walls. We see that on lots of houses. I guess it’s about definition, really. What defines a living wall versus having some climbers on a trellis.

GARY: Yeah, they’re both living walls but their definitions are a little bit difficult to pin down because different experts talk about different things. But in general, they’re all living, they’re all on walls but you’ve got the climbers which could be in the ground growing up or in plant boxes growing up and those grasses higher up. Or we got what we would call modular panels, or modules which are stackable, if you like. Some of those have got soil in, most are pre-planted, they all irrigated those. Some of them don’t have soil, some of them are hydroponic. They are pre-grown in the nursery and you just pop them in place. And there’s a lot of different products and different ways of doing this. So there’s a lot.

PAUL:There are a lot of opportunities and if somebody wants to explore this for themselves or for their business then there’s a number of ways of going about it.

GARY:Yeah. And a green wall is more likely to be a special feature in or near a reception, a gateway feature. Maybe, to advertise a business, restaurants, hotels, to give you something special to see. Whereas having climbing plants all the way around the outside of a school might be a way of screening it from air pollution. I think there’s a whole range of different techniques, if you like, according to the need and the budget. Plenty of good ideas there. And of course it means that you’ve got greening in a place where you wouldn’t normally have space. When you have a bird’s eye view of a green wall, it doesn’t exist, does it? It’s just a line. But actually, could be a huge feature. So that could be important, for instance in London, you have the urban greening factor and your walls count in that. So if you haven’t got space on the ground and you’ve got limited space on the roof, the way of meeting your greening targets would be vertical greening.

PAUL:Okay, so there are greening targets then, it’s called green targets that companies have to aim for?

GARY:Yes. In London, you have something called the Urban Greening Factor which means you need to get a minimum amount of vegetation on your development. You can look that up, the Urban Greening Factor. It supports the Urban Greening Policy in the London Plan. It’s there in the plan. And the government thinking of rolling this out across the whole country. The same targets have been copied in Wales, for instance in Swansea, so I think it’s going to catch on. And first, called greening, well, green roofs but also green walls will be the way of meeting these target on difficult sites.

PAUL:Well, are there any other targets that companies will need to meet in the future or now?

GARY:Yes. So, the other big deal now is biodiversity net gain.


GARY:So there’s a mandatory 10% biodiversity net gain coming in this year, 2023. So it’s part of the Environment Act of 2021. Biodiversity net gain 10%. Well, if you’re starting from a low baseline, 10% may not be that difficult, actually. But in urban situations, green roofs and green walls will provide habitat which will contribute to that 10% target.

PAUL:So 10% net gain biodiversity target. Where’s the gain there? Is it about how much biodiversity you’ve removed versus… you removed so much biodiversity by the footprint of your business and you’ve got to go do that plus 10%?

GARY:Yes, you’ve got to replace what you’ve lost plus add 10%. Now if you start with nothing, it’s easy. So if it’s just a previously developed site with no vegetation, then a green roof… job done.  If however, the baseline is of a site that’s thriving with plenty of wildlife, then you have got a bit of a challenge there.

PAUL:So then you’d have to remove that and put the building back.

GARY:So then eventually, the building… you might even have to do more than that if it’s a valuable site.

PAUL:For net 10 gains…

GARY:You get 10% gain.

PAUL:I’m sorry, you get 10% gain. So 10% more than what was there originally. Which is very much what Awardaroo is all about – regeneration. So that’s doing more good than harm. You know, sustainable.

GARY:Because it’s a statutory requirement, everyone’s interested. People have been campaigning about biodiversity net for a long time. But people have just thought, whatever, you know. Nice to have, yes, but business as usual. But now, developers, architects, they’re all asking what does this mean for us? What do we have to do? So, although there are problems with the interpretation of it, the measurement of it, the long term stewardship of it, and so on. And it’s all new and lots of debate about how you measure, the techniques, the metrics, it’s a good thing in the sense that it’s now being taken seriously.

            Today I was talking to an architecture practice and I can tell this is relatively new to them. They’d heard of moving newts around or protecting bats before but that wasn’t a positive process. It was more, “Oh we’ve got to protects this species, let’s move it out of the way.”

            Now, with this net gain, it’s about regeneration, restoration…

PAUL:It’s a positive thing. It’s actually saying this business exists. This business is actually doing more good for the environment than harm, not just creating a profit.

GARY:Absolutely. So one of the things that we haven’t looked at much is the sustainable drainage as it’s called. And green roofs are a source control method in a sustainable drainage plan/scheme. So the idea is a sustainable drainage that you mimic nature by holding water in the landscape, cleaning it, providing habitat before it flows into rivers. Whereas, of course, the conventional way is that you have a grey roof and it comes into a dam pipe and the dam pipe goes into a sewer, it overloads the sewer. You get sewage spills with combined sewers, or you get flooding in the streets. So, sustainable drainage should involve green roofs and these green roofs will tend to have deeper soils because the deeper the soil, the more rain you can hold on the roof.


GARY:So there’s a whole opportunity there to start dealing with flood management or for reducing the risk of flood using green roofs. But then, of course, when it comes off the roof then you might have ground level features – swales and rain gardens, water flowing infiltrating into the ground if the soil and the geology is suitable and then into other features before it overflows either into the sewer or into the rivers. This is something that has been talked about for years and it’s been very slow to be taken up. The government’s shown some interest and it’s dragging its feet. But now, with the Environment Act, there’s a new importance to start using sustainable drainage to deal with the risk of surface water flooding. So that fits in nicely with the biodiversity agenda, climate change adaptation, biodiversity. It should all be part of a joined up approach.

PAUL:Isn’t that great to hear how all this urban greening is bringing nature back into the cities and becoming a part of everyday life, you know. Heading in the right direction and all that. And just one other area that we’re gonna talk about is which is rain gardens. Can you talk a little bit about that, introduce everybody to what it is?

GARY:A rain garden is one of the features you can have in your sustainable drainage system. So rain garden just sounds like a positive thing, doesn’t it? The experts would all argue about exactly what it is, but, if you’re talking with the public, if you say you would need sustainable drainage systems then then the average person says, “What’s that? It doesn’t sound very nice and very interesting.” Whereas a rain garden sounds like something you would want to have.

 PAUL:   This is on the ground? This is on a roof?

GARY:No, no, no. So a rain garden is a planted bed that’s modified so that water can flow into it deliberately. And then, when it overflows, it flows over into another rain garden or into the drain or whatever it is. So what it’s doing is slowing the flow down. It’s temporarily storing water and then it drains away slowly. And it’s made out, I mean they can be quite simple in some ways, just a shallow basin with sandy soil which also absorbs rain. Or it can be more complicated than that. But, it’s potentially just an ornamental bed which functions as part of your drainage system. 

PAUL:Okay. So green roofs are a thing, living walls are a thing. Rain gardens then, they’re specifically there to just hold onto the water for longer, stopping rain from offing into the drainage and to be used locally for longer or something, is that it?

GARY:Yeah. So we can potentially put rain gardens where there’s paving or we can modify what would otherwise just be ornamental planting. We could still be ornamental, but you know, a planted bed is a planted bed which is just for show. But a rain garden could be a planted bed which is for show, which is also for nature, but also part of the drainage. So this is about a multi-functional approach. And that is a challenge because you know what it’s like. Life is divided up into different specialisms, different departments, you know the drainage department is different from the parks department. But actually, the drainage and the parks should all be part of the same thing. And that is a challenge but that’s the way we are moving now – multifunctionality.

PAUL:Brilliant. Sound excellent. Well, thank you again. Thanks so much, Gary, for sharing your insights and your knowledge and your wisdom. And having you made us better understand these three areas of green roofs, living walls and rain gardens. If we want to leave people with something to takeaway, you know, if you’re running a business and you like the idea of having a green roof or a living wall, rain garden. Are there 2, 3, 4, 5 things that they can just look at their businesses and see if this would be right for them?

GARY:As you were saying earlier, if you’ve got a large building, you might be able to retrofit that building. If you can’t have a green roof, you can probably have a green wall. If you’ve got ground, so for instance, some industrial sites are now getting interested in this sort of thing because although there may be limitations, often there’s a green desert, if you like, with a bit of mown grass that is not really doing anything. And it might be that you could put sustainable drainage in there, rain gardens. You can perhaps create habitat for wildlife, you can create space for people to have their lunch and so on. That can actually transform a business if you’ve got a nice spot to have your lunch then your staff turnover will fall and then you’ll save a lot more money than it cost you to make the feature. So I think nearly everyone could get involved in this. If you can’t do it with your premises, you could get involved with it in the voluntary sector, support them with work days and so on, communities and schools. I think everyone can get involved in urban greening in one way or another. The more you look at it, the more opportunities there are. So there’s a process we call green infrastructure auditing which is about mapping what you already have and then looking for more opportunities to intervene and bring more into neighbourhood. We do a lot of that with business improvement districts, green infrastructure audits. And I think everyone, to do that, there are ways. I mean, you don’t have to be an expert. You can see what you have and then think about what you could have. And if you want to use experts, that’s fine. But you can get involved with this in a grand way or in a modest way. There’s plenty that can be done.

PAUL:I like the idea of habitat creation. Also I think it would be nice if we can introduce more butterflies, get bees back and all the insects and all those sorts of things. Is there opportunities ahead for these to be wild roofs and maybe some flower gardens?

GARY:Yeah, absolutely. You’ve got a campaign to attract pollinators so that’s insects that visit flowers so you have more flowers. That’s all good. That helps your bees and your butterflies but it’s also important to remember that for instance, butterflies need to lay their eggs on particular plants. So the larvae, the caterpillars need their food plant. So increasing the number of pollinator insects by having more flowers is good but it’s only part of the story. We need larvae food plants for butterflies and we need habitat for all the other species out there as well. We need to do a little bit more than just having a few flowers around. And also we need place for creatures to rest and breathe and so on. We need bird boxes, bat boxes, insect hotels, but importantly, the right thing in the right place.

PAUL:Insect hotels. I need to look up insect hotels.

GARY:    Insect hotels need to be in a sunny spot ideally. And they need to have the right size holes in there. You can buy these now. And there’s more than honeybees. You know, the insect worls, there are 250 species of wild bee. They’re all important, they all play their part. Honeybees, they provide honey. That’s a farm animal but there are wild bees as well. There are butterflies, as you say, beetles. There are all sorts of invertebrates out there and there is a guide on how to garden for wildlife.

PAUL:I think that would be something that perhaps might be easier for people to connect with if they’re not actual gardeners because I think that everybody gets the idea of creating habitats and looking after all these species.

GARY:    Yeah. The Chelsea Flower Show has just finished, hasn’t it? And all of the gardens there are all about wildlife now. So it’s now officially allowed to have wildlife gardening. So the RHS promotes this, it provides a lot of advice on how to do this. You can go to the RHS website. They can tell you which plants attract pollinators and so on. So we can all get involved with this.

PAUL: It can still belong to green roofs, living walls and rain gardens. It’s not to be separated.

GARY:It’s only part of it. There’s a lot out there. Every opportunity we have for bringing more soil, water, vegetation into the city benefits and then also…

PAUL:Yeah. Got you. The bigger picture of urban greening as specifics of green roofs, living walls and rain gardens. The whole idea of urban greening, getting nature into the cities.

GARY:Yeah, but if you like green roofs, green walls and rain gardens are ways of shoehorning, a lot of benefits into what otherwise would have been an area that people might think, “Well there’s nothing really we could do here.” We could do a lot. The parks need to be improved and the verges and all that stuff, it’s all a part of it.


GARY:Parks, people get that. They understand what they are. They know they can be improved and people are looking at that as well. But it’s the whole package together isn’t it?

PAUL:Yeah, fantastic. It’s been really great speaking with you. Learnt so much there and I just think I’ve a much better understanding of what urban greening is now. Or what’s involved or what the opportunities are. So everybody listening to this will be able to take some steps in actually implementing green roofs, living walls and rain gardens or just urban greening in general, getting nature back into the cities. So thank you again, Gary Grant of The Green Infrastructure Consultancy. Really appreciate it.

GARY:You’re welcome and speak to you again soon. Bye!


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