Smart Roofs – Soil is critical to the success of new innovative practices

Smart Roofs – Soil is critical to the success of new innovative practices

Charlotte Markey, Green Urbanisation Manager, Polypipe Civils and Green Urbanisation explains the role of technology in optimising soil systems for green infrastructure.

I have been following the advent of the “NatureTech” movement and as part of my PhD thesis I have an abiding interest in the interplay between nature and technology. In the case of any nature based solution, we have to ask ourselves why we integrate technology and understand the importance of the interplay between the physical components of a solution and the technologies proposed to augment and enhance their performance.

In the case of the award-winning Manchester Bloc roof we can see how the interplay of the soil, technology and innovative design practices resulted into a complete step change in how we can support nature and utilise passive irrigation techniques to provide sub surface irrigation whilst simultaneously linking the nature-based solution to live weather data. This means that there is a constant supply of water that can be wicked through the soil profile on the roof and only the amount required to discharge from the roof is remotely controlled. Data from the soil, the Permavoid tanks, and live weather data are utilised in tandem to create a digital twin of the roof and an accurate model in order to optimise the function of the remote-controlled valves.

Inevitably this use of the substrate to facilitate capillary rise and its application on a roof top scheme brings with it several key challenges that are not insurmountable. Firstly, if retrofit, weight of substrate when saturated when coupled with the concept that on a green blue roof you are also storing water in the geo cellular matrix requires careful structural considerations. Secondly, the importance of balancing the choice of a substrate that will have the greatest amount of wicking potential but that will also be as lightweight as possible is a continuing area for product development and continuous improvement.

Having delivered this scheme, one of the questions that I believe is well worth answering collectively as practitioners is how we can make our soils smarter with the advent of new engineered solutions and technological innovations? When we push the boundaries of what it is possible to achieve, particularly on retrofit schemes such as the Bloc, we can see that there are clearly research gaps and exciting opportunities we can pursue as a collective.

Join us at upcoming CIRIA conference "Unearthing the value of soil through collaboration" to delve into the contemporary challenges practitioners face in navigating soil management as both waste and resource. Through collaborative discussions, stakeholders will strategise towards meeting the UK government’s 2030 sustainable soil management target and embark on a site visit to Polypipe's acclaimed Bloc smart roof.
Our Partners
Our Supporters