Smart businesses with green roofs


Roof gardens are not just about pretty views – they have surprising business benefits including boosting employee satisfaction and reducing energy bills.

High above the busy streets of London’s commercial districts unused roof spaces are getting a fresh start. A number of businesses are turning their rooftops into gardens in a groundbreaking scheme by inmidtown – the business improvement district that covers the central London boroughs of Bloomsbury, Holborn and St. Giles.

“We have actively reached out to our businesses in the area and described the benefits that the green roof option could have on both their employees and the environment,” says Tass Mavrogordato, CEO of inmidtown.

Part-funded by a £15,000 (about €19,000) grant from the Greater London Authority, the project is part of Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s ambition to “green” London’s grey spaces. So far the scheme has been adopted by four major organizations in the area. 

Happy workers and curious clients

Olswang, international law firm headquartered in London, is one of the four companies involved in inmidtown’s green roof project. With constant praise and the notable awards it has won, the law firm’s garden is a real success story.

With support from inmidtown, Olswang first started with beekeeping in 2011 and created a garden with wildflowers to provide a suitable environment for the bee population. Soon however, they expanded into growing vegetables and herbs too.

“It’s been absolutely great” says Linda Zell, who is head of corporate responsibility. “A lot of an organization’s environmental policy can feel remote when you sit in an office in London, so it has been fantastic to bring nature to the workplace.”

Currently Olswang’s garden and bees are tended by the 12 regular members of the firm’s gardening club, eight trained beekeepers and a number of occasional helpers. 

In addition to the gardening club members, other employees regularly make their way to the garden and even hold client meetings there. Due to constant interest from curious clients, the company has started arranging weekly tours to the garden and the beehives.

Potential savings

The benefits of green roofs go far beyond enhancing city landscapes. A recent report by American NGO Green Roofs for Healthy Cities states that green infrastructure can directly reduce energy consumption in buildings used for heating and cooling, while the improved air quality directly contributes to better health and well-being of employees. 

The report also notes, that “even seeing green infrastructure can result in healthier office workers, reducing absenteeism and improving bottom line productivity.” 
The positive effects of the garden have been noted by Olswang too. “The garden has been great for employee engagement” says Laura Davies, corporate responsibility executive.
On a more tangible note, the garden herbs, edible flowers and salads are used in the company’s canteen and in the kitchen of the neighbouring Rosewood Hotel.
Delicious business indeed!

Potential benefits of roof gardens

1. Reduces storm-water runoff as part of sustainable drainage systems
2. Increases roof lifespan
3. Reduces energy use
4. Helps with climate change
5. Lessens the urban heat island effect
6. Increases biodiversity
7. Improves air and water quality
8. Reduces sound transfer
9. Creates amenity space
Text and photo by Amanda Soila
This article was originally published in Finnair's Blue Wings magazine (September 2014).

Published September 1, 2014

Category: Environment, Corporate Responsibility