What is green infrastructure?

 

Our green spaces are under increasing pressure as the climate and population change. There is a continued demand for housing and, as a result, there has been a tendency to replace green areas in towns and cities with bricks and tarmac, particularly on driveways and in gardens. When it rains, increasingly heavy rainstorms land on smaller areas of permeable or well-drained ground, making roads and homes more prone to flooding than previously. ‘Green infrastructure’ is a term used to describe all of the green spaces in and around towns and cities. This might include parks, private gardens, agricultural fields, hedges, trees, woodland, rivers and ponds. In this post, we explain the concept in a little more detail and share some examples of green infrastructure projects in London.

green-infrastructure

Development of the term

‘Green infrastructure’ is a description of what the land is, but it also describes what the land does. The term reflects a growth in understanding of the various benefits that are to be gained from providing and maintaining healthy green spaces: reducing flood risk; improving psychological health and well-being; boosting local economic regeneration, and providing a habitat for wildlife. Rather than valuing green spaces for a specific use (e.g. a football field for recreational purposes), green infrastructure recognises that green space can provide a variety of functions, often at the same time.

Green infrastructure in England

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) defines green infrastructure as “a network of multi-functional green space, urban and rural, which is capable of delivering a wide range of environmental and quality of life benefits for local communities”. The NPPF places the responsibility with local authorities to plan strategic green infrastructure networks, particularly to reduce the risks associated with climate change. Places where there is limited access to green space is also prioritised, as is the inclusion of green infrastructure in major development and regeneration schemes.

Green infrastructure in London

The All London Green Grid (ALGG) promotes green infrastructure across London. While London is already a very green city, with an existing park and green space network that functions well for recreational purposes, there is growing recognition of the need to plan, design and manage green spaces to provide additional benefits. Similarly, the London Infrastructure Plan 2050 emphasises that green infrastructure is as important for the city as other infrastructure such as roads and railway lines.

Recent green infrastructure projects in north and west London include the London Wildlife Trust’s new 11 hectare nature reserve, Woodberry Wetlands in Stoke Newington, which opened to the public earlier this year, and a new interactive map that allows you to explore the ‘Wild West End‘ of the capital. The aim of this project is to create a network of green spaces and green roofs between the major parks in the West End of London.

To learn more about green infrastructure and other local and national projects, visit the Green Infrastructure Partnership website.

L-shaped dormer explained

 

Converting your loft can be good value for money when improving your home and increasing your living space. An L-shaped dormer loft conversion can be a good option for creating more room at the top of your home. Popular on period, terraced properties, this type of loft conversion creates a lot of space, usually adding at least a couple of rooms to your property. In this post, we give you a bit more information about what is involved in this type of conversion.

RISE Design Studio L-shaped Dormer

What does ‘dormer’ mean?

A ‘dormer’ loft conversion is a structural extension that projects vertically from the plane of a sloping roof. An L-shaped dormer typically involves constructing two dormers – one sits on the main body of the house and the other then extends out over the rear addition of the property. The dormers meet to create the ‘L’ shape. This type of conversion is most suited to Victorian and Edwardian properties that tend to have the kitchen and bathroom at the rear. An advantage of the L-shaped conversion is that you are able to replicate your first floor in terms of space and design.

Planning

Under Permitted Development Rights (introduced in 2008 by the Department of Communities and Local Government), you typically do not need to have planning permission to build a loft extension on a house if the extension is adding less than 50 cubic metres of new space to the property (and less than 40 cubic metres if the house is a terrace). However, there are some cases when you will need planning permission and it is wise to double check the requirements with your local authority before starting your project. For example, you will need planning permission if the side of your house with the conversion faces the road or if your house is in a designated area (e.g. conservation area, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, etc.). The conversion will still need Building Regulations approval and it is worth having an approved design before you start work.

Design and construction

On first glance, L-shaped dormers appear to have a flat roof. Instead, they tend to be built with a 1:50 fall to the side to ensure that water does not pool on the roof of the loft. To make the extension look less ‘top-heavy’, it is common to step the sides of the dormer slightly and create a small border around the edge of the structure, blending in with the existing slope of the roof. There are several other technical considerations to take into account during design and construction. For example, you will need to consider fire precautions and escape windows, ventilation measures (especially if the extension includes a bathroom or shower room), thermal and sound insulation of the new structure, and how you are going to supply electrics and heat to the new space. Investing in a good design will ensure that your extension adds to the ‘look and feel’ of the original property, rather than detracting from it.