A Huge Rooftop Garden is Breaking Records in the Netherlands

Rotterdam has a lush new star in its innovative urban design portfolio

Jun 30, 2020

Since May 2020, the city of Rotterdam has officially become home to the longest green roof in the Netherlands. The city, which is the second largest in the country, has been taking on ambitious environmental projects in an attempt to be climate-proof by 2025, reports Green Prophet

The new 7,600 square meter rooftop garden is the latest such initiative. It aims to make the city green and resilient to flooding by retaining water during periods of heavy rainfall. According to the European portal for cities and their citizens, The Mayor, the project will also add biodiversity to the city and absorb CO2. Once in bloom, the green roof will also be a magnet for bees, butterflies and birds. 

“Rotterdam is probably one of the leading cities in the world in terms of making the future climate proof,” said Khoo Teng Chye, executive director at the Centre for Liveable Cities in Singapore’s Ministry of National Development. “There is the challenge of excess water. In 2006, there was a shift from shutting water out to living with water. There is an emphasis on adaptability in urban design,” he explained during the Urban Land Institute’s webinar, in June 2020. 

And that’s precisely what Rotterdam’s new rooftop garden is doing. The green roof sits on top of the largest social housing complex in the city. This iconic building is known as Peperklip because its shape resembles that of a paperclip. The complex is home to approximately 1,300 people who live in 549 properties. 

This exciting project is the fruit of a collaboration between the municipality and a local housing association. It is funded by the LIFE @ Urban Roofs project for climate action, which is subsidized by the European Union.

While residents won’t have direct access to the greenery, they will be able to enjoy the insulation and flood-prevention that the garden provides. Plants help to regulate indoor temperatures by cooling down the sun’s intensity in the summertime, and by insulating indoor heat in the wintertime. They also absorb water, thus preventing leaks from seeping into the building.

The complex has a strong community focus as well, and encourages children to express their views on sustainability by painting murals. A team of energy coaches will also advise and so empower residents to improve environmental efficiency in the building. 

Environmental sustainability has become an important focus for Rotterdam residents because the port city sits four meters below sea level, and so the city is vulnerable to flooding.  

Peperklip’s green roof, therefore, is just one of many urban sustainability projects that have been developed over the past decade. The Floating Pavilion, a set of three climate-proof domes, is another project that brings together community and sustainable design. In addition to event and festival spaces, the pavilion includes a floating park that serves the dual purpose of collecting plastic pollution and creating a habitat for local species. According to the project’s website the pavilion “is a pilot and a catalyst for floating construction in Rotterdam”. 

Another ecological floating project that has been developed in Rotterdam is the Floating Farm, a small-scale and sustainable dairy farm that sits in the city’s port. According to Reuters, the structure has a rainwater collection system on the roof and is powered by solar panels that float nearby.

As climate change threatens coastal cities, urban planners are seeking  new and innovative ways to incorporate flood-proof designs into city structures. Rotterdam’s leadership and initiative in exploring urban adaptation is inspiring, and can be used by cities throughout the world as a model of smart growth. Furthermore, by connecting communities and social well-being into designs, cities can be transformed into spaces of collective growth, health, and security. 

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.