It took a global pandemic to make Australia’s most populous cities look differently at how they could utilise unused spaces. Car parking spaces was just one area.
Innovative business leaders began concepting new ways of breathing fresh life into neglected spaces. Leaders across different industries united to create new and exciting opportunities for staff and the community to enjoy.
From car spaces to edible gardens
In Melbourne a coffee producer, a food cube manufacturer and a native plant nursery joined forces to turn two unused car spaces in Port Melbourne into an urban farm. That same farm has since gone on to supply nearly 400 kilograms of vegetables and herbs for people in need.
A similar project was undertaken in the heart of the city on one of Sydney’s busiest streets. The basement of the award-winning EY Centre on George Street was transformed into an urban farm as part of a pilot program that brings healthy, local produce to office workers.
The head of the project had commented that as well as eliminating transport and packaging waste, it also served to reconnect people with the origin story of their meal.
“It inspires people to think more broadly about the kind of future they want.”
Converting apartment rooftops
It is this kind of inspiration that has seen the green roof top revolution gaining momentum.
Creative and forward-thinking leaders in strata also look for new ways to make good use of underutilised spaces. The pandemic certainly taught us the importance of having space at home to unwind, particularly away from our home offices.
And as we do in strata, we go up!
Taking their cue from such innovations, strata residents in buildings with a flat roof are now adopting a similar approach to their empty rooftop spaces.
Where once lay barren grey concrete, an increasing number of residential apartment complexes are now turning these areas into modern, high rise fields of green.
Man-made green spaces on the topmost levels of residential, commercial or industrial structures could be designed to grow produce, provide play space, shade or shelter, or simply used as a green common area for all residents to enjoy. Even as an outdoor cinema under the stars!
Approval in St Kilda
Rooftop gardens are not just for those living in new developments, they can be retrofitted to older buildings too.
In fact, residents of a 1950s apartment block in Melbourne’s St Kilda successfully applied for a council grant to have their apartment complex rooftop redesigned and converted into a green roof.
The concept, design, and installation were performed by a horticultural technologies company, which incorporated a 50m2 grassed and landscaped area for residents to enjoy.
Going green is good for everyone. Whilst making an obvious improvement to aesthetic challenges, the green roof revolution is being hailed for its many environmental credentials.
Green rooftop gardens have been earning praise for helping to increase the lifespan of the roof, serving as a rainwater buffer, purifying the air and reducing greenhouse emissions.
In addition to offering residents improved air quality and alternative gathering spaces, these ‘secret gardens’ also act as a sound barrier to the building beneath, helping with sound absorption, protection against fire and helping biodiversity and wildlife by providing a good habitat for butterflies and birds.
Enjoying modern rooftops
Senior Community Manager from Victoria Body Corporate Services, Barbara Lo, manages properties within her portfolio featuring rooftop gardens and loves visiting these spaces when she’s onsite.
“One particular property is in the leafy suburb of Heidelberg in Melbourne. It’s a beautiful building with a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments over six levels.
“There’s a gorgeous rooftop garden and barbeque area for residents
to book and utilise. The view from up there is amazing.
“The Committee often hosts social catch ups with the residents up on the roof. And why wouldn’t you make good use of it? It was a godsend for residents during lockdown for a bit of fresh air and time out from their own four walls.
“I also manage a gorgeous high-rise property in Southbank. It’s a large community with over 200 apartments.
They range in size from one to three bedrooms and there’s over 20 floors with penthouses on the top levels.
“This property has a rooftop garden too and barbeque facilities. The view is unbelievable and covers the city and around Melbourne. It’s actually the perfect spot for viewing New Year’s Eve fireworks.
“I really enjoy working with this Committee. They are so proactive, and they like to schedule resident get togethers for Christmas each year.
“When you think of what an ideal community spirit would be like, this is the building. I hope the residents realise how fortunate they are. My wish is for every community to enjoy what this owners corporation has. And it’s not because the building is relatively new and has phenomenal facilities, it’s the way they work together to get great results for everyone.
“Whether it is a barbeque area or vegetable garden, the idea starts with you. It’s all about working together. The great features like rooftop gardens are just the icing on the cake,” says Barbara.