Tilt your head back and take a look into the sky. Old or new, the buildings in the city’s urban landscape are flush with foliage. Boasting 96,000 square metres of green roofs and walls, the City of Sydney is leading the charge with the release of its green roofs and walls draft policy and plan, calling on local residents and businesses to take part in the revolution.

“With higher-density living and a growing population, we need to accommodate people in a healthy way and use the urban space as wisely as possible,” says Lucy Sharman, City of Sydney’s Green Roofs and Walls Senior Project Officer.

There are more than 80 green roofs and walls already integrated in the urban areas of the city and another 70 are scheduled for completion. In the CBD, No. 1 Bligh Street – the first six-green-star office tower – features a lush green wall covering 377 square metres. In Surry Hills, the largest green roof in the city was recently installed at Prince Alfred Park Pool, with 35,917 plants, including local Australian varieties.

Nearby in Chippendale, it’s hard to miss the newly installed sprawling green wall at One Central Park designed by internationally acclaimed French artist-botanist Patrick Blanc and French architect Jean Nouvel. Currently the tallest vertical garden in Australia, covering 1200 square metres across 24 panels, the leafy tapestry installed by specialists Junglefly is made up of more than 2700 planter boxes blooming with around 250 species of Australian plants. Redefining the city skyline, the cascading greenery is set to cover 50 per cent of the building’s facade and will be the tallest in the world once it reaches its full potential. One Central Park is also part of Vision 202020, a national program that aims to increase green urban space by 20 per cent by 2020 through advocacy, collaboration and strategy.

“We’re developing an understanding of how green roofs function in Sydney,” says Sharman. “It’s different in every city because of climate and particular buildings.” He also emphasises that the policy’s main goal is to increase the amount of vegetation in the city and to encourage more green infrastructure through investment in technology, research and education.

There are many benefits to having more green roofs and walls in urban areas. “For residents, it means better insulation, more open space and it looks better. For the broader public, it cleans the air, increases biodiversity and cools the city, reducing the urban heat island effect.”

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And it seems that advocating for a greener city is working. “We receive more than one development application each week for a green roof or wall,” says Sharman.

David Duncan, Senior Associate Landscape Architect at ASPECT Studios, which is known for its collaboration on projects including One Central Park and the multi-award-winning Darling Quarter (which has two green roof terraces and a community garden), explains that green infrastructure was pioneered by architects and projects in Europe where the government provided plenty of support.

Choosing the right plants is crucial for making an urban green space work says Duncan. “Sun and shade are factors but the main consideration is soil depth and ensuring that plants are durable and have longevity. It’s important that they’re able to adapt to a pretty challenging environment.”

While a green roof resource manual is currently available, Sharman says that the City of Sydney is keen to encourage a broader range of people to implement green roofs and walls, “We’re in the process of preparing technical guidelines and fact sheets that can be accessed anytime and we’re planning a large forum about urban food production to explain how to grow effectively on roofs and balconies.”

For more information, see these other resources:

City of Sydney’s Draft Green Roof and Wall Policy and Plan

Vision 202020

Green Roofs Australasia

Aspect Studios