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A small section of the glorious living green wall outside the new Cbus tower in Sydney CBD

A small section of the glorious living green wall outside the Cbus tower in Sydney CBD

Yesterday the ABC published a great article called – Concrete Jungle.  In it there was some very interesting information about green walls & green roofs in Sydney.

  • There are already 75 green roofs in the City of Sydney LGA.
  • The City of Sydney Council receives at least one DA for a green roof every week.
  • They want to increase green roof coverage to 23.5% by 2030.

The article includes two short videos that are worth watching.  The first is about the green roofs & the benefits that these spaces bring to the people in the city.

The second video speaks about the green walls & microclimates of the green walls in the One Central Park Broadway development currently being constructed.  One of the central walls on the south side of this development is the biggest green wall constructed to date at 14-storeys tall & 4-metres wide.  The buildings also have 5-kilometres of balcony gardens.

Apart from the beauty of the green walls in the One Central Park development, where every façade – 1,000 square metres – will become ‘a veil of green,’ it is the cantilever terrace that projects out into the air that most fascinates me.  This space will have a small pool, flowering trees & a private garden where residents of the top 5 floors can go to relax & take in the panoramic views.  Talk about a selling point.

Whenever I think about green walls & green roofs I think of the development happening at the old RSL site in Marrickville called ‘The Revolution.’  At the Joint Regional Planning Panel meeting about this development, an angry crowd of about 100 local residents listened to the Architect answer three questions, one being – Had you considered a green roof?”  His answer was, “Not an environmental mandate.  You have to water a green roof. To what end is pumping water up to the roof?” 

The research I did on the requirements of watering green roofs found this simple explanation from Alive Structures –

Extensive green roof (3-7 inches of soil) – No, however the roof will need to be watered occasionally during the first year of establishment just like any landscape. But after the first year the plants can sustain themselves, with the only watering exceptions in extreme periods of drought.

Intensive (8 inches + of soil) – Yes. Since an intensive green roof can accommodate a large variety of plants, shrubs and trees, their watering requirements are higher than succulents and herbs. Intensive green roofs generally have an irrigation system installed.  http://alivestructures.com/FAQ/greenroof_faq/37

This DA decision for ‘The Revolution’ was at the tail-end of the period of currency of the old Marrickville Local Environment Plan (LEP) & the Development Control Plan 2010 (DCP).  Many in the community hoped that green roofs & walls, decent green space & decent sized trees in the development would be a requirement for high-rise development in the next LEP & DCP as these were to take us through the next 25-years.  It failed to eventuate.

The next time I saw a plan for a green roof was for the new Marrickville Library. That plan consisted of covering the roof with long straw-like grass & using the same long grass for the land out front of the Library, which many in the community had hoped would become a new small park.   This space was not usable for the public, so it wasn’t a surprise that this particular design was not chosen.

So City of Sydney powers ahead in yet another environmental area, while we have to rely on the benevolence of Architects & developers as to whether they will include such green features in the high-rise development to come – & there will be a lot of it.

The argument that City of Sydney Council has more money does not stand up here, because it is the developer who pays the cost of building the developments.  Their planning guidelines promote the environmentally-friendly options.

Housing is at a premium & whatever is built is sold.  Whether it is mediocre housing or great housing is the question.  One Central Park is at the premium end of housing, but there are another 74 green roofs elsewhere in the City of Sydney municipality.  They can’t all be premium.

You can read the article & watch the videos here – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-06-09/concrete-jungles/4742290

I took a screen shot directly from the ABC News article - with thanks.  Note what is happening in Brisbane with 51% canopy & 2-million trees planted over a 4-year period.  Very impressive.

This is a screen shot directly from the ABC News article – link above – with thanks.  Note what is happening in Brisbane with 51% canopy & 2-million trees planted over a 4-year period. Very impressive.

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This verge garden in Stanmore is a great addition to the streetscape

This is a great video from the ABC about how Perth city intends to install more pop-up gardens, green walls & encourage community verge gardening to cool the city down.  Michael Mobbs who is doing this with his community in Chippendale Sydney & with the support of Sydney of Sydney Council (see – http://bit.ly/NJ6cpz) went over to Western Australia to advise on how to do this to City of Perth Council.

The video explains simply & in a nutshell why we need to green our streets & will likely enthuse you if you have been considering doing something with your own verge.

I believe that the more streets that are transformed, the happier the community in those streets will be. Verge gardening helps connect you with your neighbours & the wider community.  It provides cheap food if you grow veggies & herbs & also beauty softening the landscape.  It also cools the streets down saving money on cooling bills.

You can watch the video here – 6.5 minutes –  http://bit.ly/LFkt89

Streetside view of the same verge garden in Stanmore. It’s vibrant with life & colour. More verge gardens will soften our landscape & cool temperatures down. I look forward to the day when verge gardens are the norm.

Cooks River at dusk - the black marks in the sky are the bats leaving their home in Wolli Creek - I am told it is a spectacular sight to see them leave from the vantage point of just outside the park

Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens Trust have been concerned about a large colony of bats who have made their home in the Gardens for years.  The bats are grey-headed flying foxes, which are listed as a threatened species in Australia.  The Trust say the bats are destroying trees in ‘Palm Grove’ & it’s true, they are denuding the trees.

Federal MP Peter Garrett is about to decide whether to allow the Trust to get rid of the bats (they say humanely) by causing a noise, which the bats are unable to tolerate, hoping they will move & find another home.  There are many problems with this.

  • They intend to do this in the breeding season when many of the mothers are pregnant.  The dispersal techniques of noise, harassment & sleep deprivation result in many miscarriages.
  • The bats become disorientated & exhausted (as we all would) during this intervention.  As a result there are many injuries.
  • It’s cruel & at the risk of sounding like a zealot, all about man’s domination over animals.  The gardens are 75 acres in size.  Yes, they are destroying a certain amount of trees on the south side of the gardens, but there are a lot of other trees & the grove can be replaced.
  • The Trust says the bats will find another home, but on the small chance they do, this itself will likely result in problems.  They may try to join other colonies, which will make other areas overburdened with bats.
  • They may stay in the gardens moving to other trees they have so far left alone.
  • They are disliked in residential areas for good reasons.  If they relocate to these areas, it is likely residents will campaign to get rid of them or take the matter into their own hands.  It’s moving a ‘problem’ to another area & another community.

I was at the NSW Art Gallery at dusk last week. It is a truly beautiful & special sight to watch the bats quietly fly over the Domain as they go off to search for food during the night.  It is also a very good thing for tourism.  Many countries do not have such nature in the CBD.  The tourists & I stood for a long time watching them & we all loved the sight.  The Trust & the City of Sydney should be promoting the bats as a tourism highlight.

I trust WIRES &, when they say there will be a problem with the dispersal intervention, I believe it.  There are a lot of other organisations who joined with WIRES opposing the bat dispersion. If there wasn’t a significant & valid reason, I do not think these organisations would take on the Royal Botanic Gardens Trust.

I found this birds nest in Dulwich Hill last week - they used all sorts of material to make it - they even have 3 little doonas for 3 little eggs

Personally I think we humans are constantly taking away habitat from wildlife.  We control ‘our’ environment at the cost of other living beings & many times we do this as our ‘given right.’

The bats are usually nomadic, seeking warm places.  Experts believe the Heat Island Effect caused by our love & prolific use of cement & paved surfaces has improved conditions for the bats in Sydney so they have stayed.  We have also had a long & protracted drought so why would the bats move on as they usually do when they know there is limited food & water outside the city?  They stay where there is food & water & once the drought is well & truly over, some of them may return to their nomadic lifestyle.  We just need to be patient.

I think the bats should be allowed to stay.  Although there are negatives, there are just as many positives, not the least these bats being a threatened species.  It is not as simple as the Trust makes out.  Trees benefit humans in many ways, but they are the homes for birds & animals.  Sometimes we have to give over areas & tree assets to them even if only out of fairness & compassion.

You can read a media release from the Humane Society, WIRES, Bat Advocacy & WWF written yesterday –  Eviction_of_Flying_Foxes

If you want to join the voices supporting the bats’ right to remain in the Royal Botanic Gardens, you can write to Peter Garrett MP via his online contact page – http://www.aph.gov.au/house/members/memfeedback.asp?id=HV4 or via his e-mail – mailto:Peter.Garrett.MP@aph.gov.au

You can read about them on the Royal Botanic Gardens Trust web-site – http://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/welcome_to_bgt/royal_botanic_gardens/garden_features/wildlife/flying-foxes Today’s news about the bats on ABC News – http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/03/24/2854578.htm?section=justin

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