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A Green Valletta, one roof at a time

Sustainable ideas being discussed during Climathon

The experimental green roof at the Faculty for the Built Environment. Photos provided by Antoine Gatt

The experimental green roof at the Faculty for the Built Environment. Photos provided by Antoine Gatt

It is said that during the French blockade of Valletta, the French tried growing wheat on roofs so that they could be self-sufficient in case the siege was a long one.

While today we do not need to grow our own food, roofs in cities like Valletta can host herbs and plants, attracting fauna to the city while reducing the heat impact in the underlying storeys.

Antoine Gatt and Darryl Grima. Photo: Chris Sant FournierAntoine Gatt and Darryl Grima. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Similar sustainable ideas will be discussed today during Climathon – a global climate change event that will take place simultaneously in major cities around the world, including Valletta.

The local theme will be on how to be best prepared for Green Valletta, 2018 Capital of Culture.

The Climathon event in Malta will be a 12-hour marathon of presentations, discussions, workshops and proposals to reduce carbon emissions in Valletta.

The French version of green roofs came about out of necessity, and in a similar fashion, sustainability is a necessity today, according to Darryl Grima, the general manager of Paragon Europe, organisers of the event in Malta.

This event should serve as a platform for ideas about innovative solutions for greener initiatives – whether related to architecture, transport or business.

Participants will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges.

One of those addressing the conference will be landscape architect Antoine Gatt, project manager of LifeMed Green Roof Project, which has seen the creation of an experimental green roof at the Faculty for the Built Environment of the university.

Asked whether residents who want greener roofs by 2018 are still in time to start their own garden, Mr Gatt said that it did not take much to create a green roof, as long as its slabs could withstand the added weight.

If the green roof is constructed well and the planting is carried out with the appropriate maintenance and timing, it will look good in very little time. Small shrubs generally established themselves within a year, he noted.

Plants are very receptive to their environment, and it is very important that the right species be selected. “It is for this reason that in the LifeMed Green Roof Project we started off by looking at native ecological habitats to identify the best possible plants to grow.

“The garigue is probably the closest habitat to the roof environment in terms of microclimate. So plants like thyme, St John’s wort and sea semphire are ideal.

“Since these plants grow wild locally, they are adapted to the prevailing climate and require less care. They can even tolerate long periods without irrigation in winter.” In all cases, it is important to use the right substrate.

More information about this project is available at lifemedgreenroof.org/.

Find more information about Climathon at http://climathon.climate-kic.org/ .

Build your own

▪ Ensure that both the roof and the building are certified by a civil engineer

▪ A good waterproofing membrane needs to be laid. Engage a professional well-versed in green roof technology and plant requirements

▪ No two roofs are the same, but native plants require less maintenance and attract myriad beneficial fauna.

Green roof layers

1. roof slab
2. damp proof membrane
3. protection layer/root barrier
4. drainage layer
5. filter fabric
6. substrate
7. vegetation

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