Burnley Green Roof The Green Infrastructure Research Group

Burnley Green Roof The Green Infrastructure Research Group

The Burnley Green Roofs completed in 2012 are Australias first dedicated green roof demonstration, training and research facility.

Comprising three green roofs built for Australian conditions, it provides opportunties for teaching and instruction, community engagement activites and continuing professional and industry development.

1. The demonstration green roof (166 m²) is located 6.6 metres above ground on the heritage-listed Burnley Campus Hall.

The focus of the demonstration roof is interpreting different green roof types, substrates (growing media), uses and plants. The design provides for ready access across the whole roof through the rising, circular pathway and facilitates small group teaching and instruction. There are 14 separate planting zones across the site, based around considerations of substrate  depth and irrigation requirements.

There are five different substrate depths across the roof 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 cm and four lightweight substrates designed for successful plant growth have been used. Components used include scoria, bottom ash (power station waste/Enviroagg®), crushed roof tiles, perlite, coir (coconut fibre/horticultural grade), pine bark and zeolite.

Approximately 203 different plant taxa are present on the demonstration green roof, with more than 3000 individual plants in total! The focus of the plantings is to demonstrate the range and variability of plants that can be used successfully on a green roof. These range from prostrate, arid-loving succulents, to low-water use perennials, and even vegetables and herbs. Many of the plants were evaluated in drought experiments.

2. The research green roof (80 m²) is on the Main Building staff room. The design of the roof is based around four quadrants, three green roof beds of different substrate depths (10, 15 and 20 cm) and one single quadrant without a green roof.

A key focus of green roofs research here includes:

• Effects of plant performance on stormwater runoff and


• Interactions of substrate, soil moisture and vegetation

Burnley Green Roof The Green Infrastructure Research Group

on thermal fluxes and building insulation

3. The biodiversity green roof (52 m²)has been designed to attract and provide habitat for lizards, insects and birds.  Green roofs potentially offer a place that is not subject to intensive management that could be used as stepping stones to connect isolated ground level habitats. Features on the roof that are known to encourage and sustain biodiversity include:

  • Indigenous plants representative of Victoria’s endangered native grasslands, including known larval food plants or nectar sources for butterflies and native bees.
  • A small ephemeral pond and shallow creek bed  which flows during rain events using stormwater run-off from the upper roof of the building.
  • Different substrates to facilitate micro-habitats for invertebrates. The main substrate used is a scoria mix but smaller areas of sand, gravel, and rubble have also been included.  In some areas the substrate depth varies between 6 cm and 12 cm to maximise ecological variety.
  • Specific habitat features to provide habitat, including logs and sand for insect burrowing, hollow twigs for native bee nesting, and rocks, pavers, tiles and pots for reptile and insect basking.

Engagement activities on the roof


The Burnley Campus was invited to be part of this year’s Open House Melbourne. The popular free event allows the general public to explore and learn about their city through its built environment, whilst showcasing good design. The Burnley Green Roofs opened its facility, receiving 400 visitors on Sunday 27th July, providing a steady stream of people armed with questions about the elevated garden landscapes. The staff from the Green Infrastructure Research Group engaged with the diverse visitor demographic, teaching them about the world of plants and green roof technology.

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