As part of Brisbane’s City Plan, developers are being encouraged to incorporate rooftop gardens and more green communal space on new apartment projects.
This new proposal, amended to the existing City Plan, will allow developers to include a rooftop communal area without it needing to be listed as another storey.
Brisbane’s Lord Mayor, Graham Quirk, added that “Council will also have the ability to ask developers to incorporate and maintain green spaces on the rooftops and walls of new apartment buildings, to support our vision of a clean, green and sustainable city.”
Under the current rules, any roofed structure needs to be listed as a storey; in a height restricted project this can lead to developers having to choose between saleable area and communal space.
Often developers will include an unshaded rooftop, which may not be appropriate considering Brisbane’s hot climate.
Aria Property Group design manager Simon White has backed the recent amendment stating that the move by the council “will make it easier for developers to deliver higher quality and more comfortable and useable spaces. We think the roofscape of high density buildings is a huge opportunity to deliver world-class amenity for residents.”
Urban rooftop gardens will help nation save bills and reduce flooding
In May 2018, researchers published new data demonstrating the benefits of curated urban gardens. They claim that not only do the gardens reduce energy bills, but they have significant impact on flood-reduction and contaminant spread prevention.
The University of Melbourne's Dr Claire Farrell said that a 10cm-deep substrate could absorb up to 95% of annual rainfall in Melbourne.
"They act like a sponge," she said, "they keep that rainfall from going into creeks and rivers where they cause a lot of damage and carry pollutants."
There has been a call on governments to step in an incentivise garden spaces for new developments. This could include anything from fast-tracked building approvals, relaxed height restrictions or financial grants.
Paolo Bevilacqua from Frasers Property notes that "it would be great to see some kind of government incentives in this space,"
"Humans just love connecting to nature — in that respect it's a bit of a no brainer."
Frasers Property Australia are demonstrating their interest with the proposal of a 2,000sqm urban farm and greenhouse located atop a proposed Burwood East shopping mall in suburban Melbourne. With the urban garden, the development has potential to take the title of ‘world’s most sustainable’.
The claim hinges on the completed complex achieving the standards set out in the Living Building Challenge (LBC), which are described as the ‘world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings.’
Progress is slow, but rooftop gardens are the future
Developers in European and North American nations are far more familiar with urban gardens than in Australia. France, for instance, passed a law in 2015 issuing that all rooftops on new buildings built in commercial zones must be at least partially covered in plants or solar panels.
City councils in Melbourne and Sydney have been discussing the possibility of administering requirements for over a decade.
“Progress has definitely been too slow” says Melbourne Councillor Cathy Oke.
Melbourne Council has identified up to 400 hectares of potential roof space that could be suitable for green roofs.
Government incentives for developers, and relaxed regulations such as Brisbane Council are adopting, are the first step in normalising roof gardens for new developments – legislation determining minimum requirements is predicted to inevitably follow.