The New School of Architecture design by Heneghan Peng neghan Peng and Construction for the University of Greenwich will host 14 roof gardens, including ponds, teaching spaces, beehives and even a couple of vineyards – the first permanent algaeponics installation in the UK. Roof gardens have always presented an alluring paradox. An enigmatic collusion between natural and built landscapes, they provide a highly simulated physical environment that nonetheless offers the beguiling promise of sanctuary and escape.
Its roof is surmounted by no fewer than 14 intricately landscaped gardens that its promoters ambitiously claim constitute the biggest biodiverse roof garden of its kind in Europe, and one that will be a landmark experimental learning resource for its students as well as academics from across the world. The university describes the 2,817sq m roof as an environmental laboratory.
The roof will be the first permanent algaeponics, , the potentially groundbreaking process by which sunlight and carbon dioxide interact with methane emitted from algae to create zero-carbon fuel, installation in the UK and one of only a handful across the world. The roof gardens are principally arranged on three cascading levels, a consequence of the building’s massing that steps down to the residential gardens along its eastern facade.
An extraordinary range of landscaping treatments, ecological environments and teaching functions is maintained across 14 gardens. Those on the lowest levels tend to offer a mix of external teaching environments, while the five lowest, the first incorporates a beehive with sedum-based planting and a water fountain, the second has soil where vegetables can be grown, and a third contains pond and wetland areas as well as, impressively, one of the rooftop’s two vineyards.
Of the final two low-level gardens, one is a hard-landscaped outdoor classroom with daisy planters and another water feature while the other is a secluded and semi-enclosed garden which could be used for a variety of teaching or recreational functions. Two greenhouses also provide controlled conditions for biodiversity studies, while photovoltaic panels and a weather station are located on the uppermost rooftop. As one would expect, spectacular panoramic views of Greenwich as well as the wider city are available from all the gardens.
Rooftop loads are accommodated by the building’s concrete frame structure with slabs, beams and columns capable of supporting the gardens but still permitting generous spans of up to 12m in the accommodation below. A sophisticated drainage strategy keeps rainwater run-off to zero. However, from a research and innovation point of view, the chief attraction of the roof is probably the algaeponics unit. The University of Greenwich’s new School of Architecture and Construction is currently on site and the £60 million building is scheduled to open next year.
Location: Greenwich, UK
Architects: Heneghan Peng
Main contractor: Osborne
Structural engineer: Alan Baxter Associates
Services engineer: Hoare Lea
Quantity surveyor: Fanshawe
Landscape architect: Allen Scott
QS | PM: Fanshawe
Acoustics: Sandy Brown
Planning: Drivers Jonas Deloitte
Specialist Lighting: Bartenbach LichLabor
Client: University of Greenwich
Article by Marco Rinaldi