From poor IAQ to overheating to flooding — learn how FMs can use green roofs and walls to tackle building performance issues

by Brianna Crandall — July 12, 2017 — Green infrastructure is now a serious consideration for facilities managers (FMs) and designers after the success of the 2017 Green Infrastructure Challenge, according to the Facilities Management Group of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).

The Challenge, which saw a radical plan to transform a poorly performing Council waste site into a green center for well-being and sustainability win out, was held during Green Sky Thinking Week, and was organized by the CIBSE and the ARCC Network and held at Build Studios in London.

While the plan included many proposals for green infrastructure implementation, the most intriguing impact will be on facilities managers, for whom the technology opens up a raft of new options to improve well-being and efficiency, according to FM Group Vice Chair David Stevens.

The plan presented by Louise Handley of environmental services company Amey will help solve many of the 1980s building’s performance issues, including poor indoor air quality (IAQ), overheating and low efficiency, without the use of mechanical infrastructure. Instead, the scheme will utilize a combination of plant-based solutions such as living walls and roofs to achieve a range of outcomes, from improving well-being and staff morale to reducing flooding and cooling the site.

Externally, rain gardens will be used to trap waste water and prevent it from causing a flooding risk, as well as to provide shade and increase air quality. The addition of living walls to the outside of the building will have the dual effect of shading in the summer and trapping heat in the winter, as well as improving air quality and staff well-being. Internally, “vertical farming” will be introduced on walls to provide IAQ and cooling benefits, as well as a “biophilic” effect expected to positively impact staff morale and increase their engagement with the process by having them care for the plants.

David Stevens, co-vice chair of the CIBSE FM Group, commented:

As one of the judges behind this Challenge, I was blown away by the ambition and versatility of the solutions that the winner presented. It is clear that green infrastructure is now a real option for facilities managers looking for new alternatives.

Research into green technology has come a long way in the last few years, and we are finally in a situation where solutions such as rain gardens and “green ceilings” are actually first-choice options in new projects. Not only is the performance of the building improved, but the performance of the occupants, too.

The Challenge aims to change the way that built environment professionals think about green infrastructure, and to demonstrate its potential as a way to contribute to improving IAQ, resilience to climate change and staff productivity. The Challenge culminated in an event exploring green infrastructure as a building service.

The runners-up in the competition were Deependra Pourel, Bernadette Widjaja and Karan Patel from the University of Westminster, who applied the scientific principles of green infrastructure to the Clarence Building at London South Bank University to model the effects of changes including green roofs, living walls and green ceilings.