April 29 2014

Athens to its Combat Heat Island Effect with a City of Green Roofs?

Rooftops in Athens, Greece

With over three thousand hours of sunshine per year, Athens, and Greece in general, is blessed with the gift of sun. And as a result, solar heaters rule the cityscape. Establishing their presence in the 1970s, solar heaters became popular in Greece, and since then their use has continued to increase.

Greece ranks second amongst European countries for installed solar capacity, just after Germany. Compared to the recent sharp increase of solar energy use in many European countries, Greece’s rates have been stable since the 1990s – at remarkably high rates. Almost three million square meters of photovoltaic panels are spread all over Greece, serving more than a million households. Greece has an important role in solar technology innovation and production.

Solar heaters on rooftops in Athens, Greece

Even though these mini, solar rooftop farms are mostly seen as a nuisance to the eye, no one can deny that using solar energy can only be beneficial to the community and the urban habitat.

On these rooftops, under the same sunny sky, another environmental project is trying to gain ground, green terraces. Are roof gardens the answer for the trees that Athens so desperately needs, but cannot provide land for?

A famous roof garden in Athens, Greece: Green Terrace

Planting trees all over the city’s rooftops is an idea that has been around for a long time in Athens. Roof gardens are commonly encountered on classy buildings and hotels and considered an eccentric decoration.

Classy rooftop in Lykabetous neighborhood, Athens, Greece

According to environmental studies, green rooftops can improve the city’s microclimate and assist in the atmosphere’s purification. Additionally, they can mitigate the energy consumption of their buildings. Soil and plants are effective insulators, preventing heat losses during winter and maintaining lower temperatures inside buildings during the summer.

The age and design of buildings govern the realization of the green terraces. Structural failures of the roof, due to the increased static load, and dampness related problems are common.

In terms of legislation, green rooftops have been described as essential for Athens, so as to be compulsory. In the past, Athens Municipality tried to organize these attempts by carrying out various campaigns, but it didn’t manage to attract many followers. Currently, government grants a percent of the expenses and also has scheduled the transformation of the terraces on eighty seven public buildings. In comparison with the casual abandonment of green public spaces, the communal character of the terrace, on apartment buildings, could be the answer to a successful maintenance of green rooftops.

As strange as it may sound, the rooftops of Athens are spawning grounds of environmental sustainability in the core of urban landscape. It remains to be seen if in the near future solar farms and green fields on the terraces will compose the modern-day hanging gardens.

Is the use of green energy part of your city’s mentality? Do you perceive green terraces as a futuristic scenario or as a feature of a twenty-first century urban design?

Credits: Images by Valia Stavrianidi. Data linked to sources.

Chris Christou

Chris has a Master's degree in Water Resources Science and Technology from the National Technical University of Athens. He started studying Mining Engineering and Metallurgy, but later on he concentrated his bachelor studies on Environmental Engineering, Waste and Water Management. During his late academic years he participated in environmental technology research projects. He is from Athens, Greece. His family, which consists mostly of civil engineers and architects, descends from the well-known stonemasons of the island of Santorini. Today he divides his time between Varkiza, a south-coast suburb of Athens, and Pagrati, downtown Athens, which he considers his home. Growing up in this central neighborhood he was able to witness the various changes in the city throughout the years. Observing his urban surroundings and influenced by his family, from an early age he became concerned about the urban environment. An inquisitive and creative person, he enjoys walking around the centre of Athens on quests for new or hidden details. Blogging for The Global Grid will be an opportunity to discover, highlight, and study the present state of environmental design in Athens, including potential outlets to improve the Athenian urban life.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 at 9:34 am and is filed under Architecture, Chris Christou, Community/Economic Development, Energy, Environment, Environmental Design, Infrastructure, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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