In a corner of MIC Alphington, C. Fulton is implementing the solution to greening Melbourne’s rooftops.

Climate change is heating up our cities.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s annual climate statement revealed that 2017 was Australia’s third-hottest year on record. Will Steffen from the Climate Council, Australia’s leading climate change communications organisation, says, “Another year has passed, and we have another set of records driven by intensifying climate change”.

In summer, our cities suffer from the Urban Heat Island Effect. This occurs when climate-regulating vegetation is replaced by infrastructure. The urban areas absorb heat, which can cause a temperature difference of up to 12 degrees from their surroundings. Heat islands can increase peak energy demand, air-conditioning costs, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, water quality, and heat-related illness and mortality.

In a News article on climate change, Mattheos Santamouris, professor of high performance architecture at the University of NSW, stated, “If we can’t find a way to make our cities cooler, they will eventually become uninhabitable”. 

What can be done to mitigate and combat climate change and its impact in our cities?

Michael Naylor, Managing Director of C. Fulton based at the Melbourne Innovation Centre in Alphington, is passionate about the environment. Determined to address this issue of urban heat radiation, Naylor has brought rooflite® to Australia—lightweight soil products engineered for a range of green roof applications.

Green roofs are layers of living vegetation installed on urban rooftops.

“Green roofs have a number of advantages,” Naylor explains. “They provide more capacity for agriculture in the form of urban vegetable gardens. They improve air quality by absorbing pollutants, reduce the risk of flooding, and regulate temperatures.”

In addition to efficiently reducing CO2 emissions and regulating urban temperatures, green roofs can reduce air-conditioning costs, help cities avoid blackouts, and ultimately improve the life quality of the population.

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But rooftop gardens are heavy, and the soil requires a different composition than that on the ground. Rooftop soil needs to absorb a lot of moisture to cope with the intensified sun and heat, and simultaneously, once it reaches saturation point, the excess water must drain away without building up excess weight. The solution is lightweight soil blends.

Australia has limited lightweight soil manufacturers to support the green roof industry. After much research, Naylor found and partnered with rooflite, becoming the first licenced soil blender in Australia. He firmly believes rooflite is a vehicle for making a direct environmental impact.

rooflite is certified green roof media. In other words, high-quality soil products specifically engineered for rooftop gardens. These lightweight soil products are designed to have perfectly-balanced physical and chemical properties to assist with water retention capacity, drainage, and healthy, long-term plant growth.

The full line of products features unique soil blends for a diverse range of green roof applications. Whether the garden will contain hardy and drought-tolerant vegetation, vegetables and herbs on a rooftop farm, or shrubs, evergreens and turf, rooflite have a soil blend to suit. These blends are made up of 60-80% ultra-absorbent lightweight aggregates and the remainder is nutrient rich organic compost. 

The business launched in early 2018 and Naylor is happy with the uptake. As a specification-driven product line, orders will take time to build in volume, but the signs are very positive. Enquiries about rooflite have accelerated from every so often to almost daily.  

The initial rollout of rooflite in Australia has included Malvern’s Cabrini Hospital and several new office developments across the CBD. “Cabrini Hospital is keen to strengthen the tree canopy of the neighbourhood and enhance the garden setting of their new development,” Naylor says. “A green roof is a perfect way to contribute to this goal—and it looks great!”

Melbourne is set for huge growth in the green roof industry, and what better place for Naylor and his team to start this journey than Melbourne Innovation Centre.

“We are thrilled to be at MIC, in a precinct that is focussed on sustainability and is tackling sustainability issues,” Naylor says. “It’s invaluable to be a part of a community that cares about improving our urban environment.”