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Technical considerations in green roof retrofit for stormwater attenuation in the central business district

Wilkinson, Sara J.; Lamond, Jessica; Proverbs, David; Sharman, Lucy; Heller, Allison; Manion, Jo

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Sara J. Wilkinson

Jessica Lamond
College Dean for Research & Enterprise

David Proverbs

Lucy Sharman

Allison Heller

Jo Manion


© Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Purpose – The key aspects that built environment professionals need to consider when evaluating roofs for the purpose of green roof retrofit and also when assessing green roofs for technical due diligence purposes are outlined. Although green or sod roofs have been built over many centuries, contemporary roofs adopt new approaches and technologies. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach – A mixed methods design based on a systematic review of relevant literature from parallel disciplines was used to identify and quantify the social, economic and environmental benefits of retrofitted green roofs in commercial districts. The technical issues of concern were drawn from a desk-top survey of literature and from stakeholder focus groups undertaken in Sydney in 2012. Findings – There are perceptions amongst built environmental practitioners that may act as artificial barriers to uptake. There is little direct experience within built environment professionals and practitioners, along with a fear of the unknown and a risk averse attitude towards perceived innovation which predicates against green roof retrofit. Furthermore projects with green roofs at inception and early design stage are often “value engineered” out of the design as time progresses. There is a need for best practice guidance notes for practitioners to follow when appraising roofs for retrofit and also for technical due diligence purposes. Research limitations/implications – The focus groups are limited to Sydney-based practitioners. Although many of these practitioners have international experience, few had experience of green roofs. A limited number of roof typologies were considered in this research and some regions and countries may adopt different construction practices. Practical implications – In central business districts the installation of green roof technology is seen as one of the main contributors to water sensitive urban design (WSUD). It is likely that more green roofs will be constructed over time and practitioners need knowledge of the technology as well as the ability to provide best advice to clients. Originality/value – The benefits of green roofs as part of WSUD are increasingly being recognised in terms of reduced flood risk, reduced cost of drainage, improved water quality and lower energy use, as well as other less tangible aspects such as aesthetics and amenity. This research highlights the lack of understanding of the short- and long-term benefits, a poor appreciation and awareness of these benefits; a lack of technical knowledge and issues to be considered with regard to green roofs on behalf of practitioners. The study has highlighted the need for specific training and up-skilling in these areas to provide surveyors with the technical expertise needed. There is also a need to consider how the emerging retrofit and adaptation themes are best designed into the curriculum at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Clearly, if the potential benefits of green roofs are to be realised in the future, building professionals need to be fully conversant with the technology and be able to provide reliable and accurate advice.


Wilkinson, S. J., Lamond, J., Proverbs, D., Sharman, L., Heller, A., & Manion, J. (2015). Technical considerations in green roof retrofit for stormwater attenuation in the central business district. Structural Survey, 33(1), 36-51.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 7, 2014
Publication Date Jan 1, 2015
Deposit Date Sep 7, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 11, 2016
Journal Structural Survey
Print ISSN 0263-080X
Electronic ISSN 1758-6844
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 1
Pages 36-51
Keywords Australia, retrofit, central business district, green roof, office buildings, water sensitive urban design (WSUD)
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This article is (c) Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited. - See more at:


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