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Architect: SOM Lanscape architect: Urban Land Studio Client: Ballymore Designed by SOM, New Providence Wharf is a multiphase project of largely medium-rise buildings in east London's Docklands, which is intended to form an 'urban village'. It features 1,000 ats facing the river, with green roofs forming part of the landscaped setting.

From the beginning, planted roofs were a vital part of the proposition. However, when the project started the concept of green roofs and biodiversity was in its infancy in the UK. English Nature suggested that some living roofs should be included to provide habitats for endangered species such as the black redstart. But in those days, explains Phil Blackshaw of landscape architect Urban Land Studio, 'brown roofs were about taking aggregate and concrete debris from the site'.

Developer Ballymore was worried about the visual impact of this approach, so the designers came up with a compromise. The roof of the crescent-shaped block is stepped up from 12 storeys at one end to 19 storeys at the other. Intensive gardens were built on levels 12-18, featuring small pools as amenities for the penthouse residents. Protrusions for lift-motor overruns had their roofs planted with a mix of sedums and wild owers.

On building B, an S-shaped residential block with a mix of social housing and housing for sale, Ballymore was again concerned about appearance and overlooking. It went for a pure sedum approach, this time plumping for plugs instead of the mats used on the original building. However, this was not entirely successful, as many of the plugs on the edge of the development were blown away by the high winds that surge up the Thames.

Therefore, on the most recently completed building, a hotel attached to the Ontario Tower, a different approach was adopted, developed in consultation with ecological consultant RPS. This consists of a 1.5m-wide strip around the edge of sedum mixed with wild owers. In the centre is a substrate of varying depth planted with wildflower plugs. By including a pond, it has been possible to give the project a range of habitats, suitable for the black redstart and also for invertebrates. As a follow-up to this project, Ballymore, along with its experts, is monitoring the development at every stage and learning important lessons.

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