Pilot studies in greenroof architecture gaining ground

When an enlightened municipal council recruits the services of a committed horticulturalist and enlists the sponsorship of the private sector, major transformations can take place in even the most run-down parts of a city such as Athens. The high quality of the green spaces in the municipality of Rendi, in the city’s industrial heartland, comes as something of a surprise to visitors. Once an environmental disaster area, and still burdened by smog and dust from nearby public construction sites and the trucks coming to Athens’s wholesale vegetable market, Rendi has for some years been setting an example with its approach to environmental issues, largely spurred by the dedication of its horticulturalist, Anna Kakoulaki-Katsarou, who has been working on its public spaces for 20 years. The latest project, now ready for installation, is a pioneering venture for Greece, an «eco» bus stop shelter that uses a turf roof and a watering system to create a microclimate in which temperatures are 4-7 degrees Celsius below the surrounding temperature. It was Mayor Giorgos Ioakeimidis who suggested the idea to Kakoulaki-Katsarou and the design was developed by Professor Michalis Vrahopoulos, a member of a research team at the solar energy laboratory at the National Technical University and professor at the Halkida Technical Institute. The bus shelter is to be installed on Petrou Ralli Avenue, one of Athens’s busiest arteries, as soon as the urban bus company (OASA) removes the existing shelter. The roof also absorbs air pollution and helps dust to settle. A solar energy panel will provide power for lighting at night and can be connected to a satellite system. A small underground water supply will provide moisture for the roof’s vegetation by spraying the roots and cooling commuters, without releasing dangerous droplets that could be inhaled, as with the type of spray cooling systems in some outdoor cafes. This initiative follows earlier experiments in greenroof architecture in Rendi – on the flat roof of the municipal day nursery and on a smaller scale in the main square, on top of a cafe. The cafe building, which features an unusual sculpture extension by Costas Varotsos, who created Athens’s famous «Runner» statue now situated opposite the Hilton Hotel, has a sloping green roof planted with grasses, herbs and succulents. The geotechnical firm Dryas SA has sponsored the roof gardens and Habitat Construction is sponsoring the bus stop shelter.

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