The Green Roof Centre

We are the National Centre of Excellence for green roofs. Our primary aim is to promote green roof development and implementation through research, education, demonstration, information and technology transfer.


The University of Sheffield is the leading research establishment in this field in the UK, with an unrivalled range of expertise in the green roof arena. It has developed an international reputation for excellence in green roof studies.

Our objectives are

  • To be the first point of contact for green roof information
  • To build and disseminate best practice
  • To support the industry through knowledge transfer and information
  • To advance knowledge through research-based education
  • To support Sheffield in its leading role in the green and blue infrastructure agenda

Based in Sheffield, The Green Roof Centre was founded by the University of Sheffield, Groundwork Sheffield and the four surrounding local authorities (Barnsley, Doncaster, Sheffield and Rotherham). The Green Roof Centre operates with partners nationally to demonstrate the potential of green roof uptake in the UK.

Background and history 

Green roof activities in Sheffield originated with some small research programmes at the University of Sheffield in 1999. Since then, research activity has increased dramatically, Sheffield City Council became very active in policy development and promotion of green roofs.

Groundwork Sheffield is a powerful green roof advocate, and the city now contains a number of landmark green roof projects.

UK green roof conferences

The first national green roof conference in the UK attracting over 200 delegates, was held at the University of Sheffield in September 2003, in partnership with Sheffield City Council.

This conference cemented the working partnership between the University of Sheffield and Sheffield City Council, and led directly to the implementation of green roof projects in the region such as Moorgate Crofts Business Centre, Rotherham.

The conference spurred the establishment of the national green roof organisation Moreover, the close partnership that has developed between the University of Sheffield, Sheffield City Council and Groundwork Sheffield has great potential to maximise knowledge exchange and technology transfer through an extensive network of contacts.

In 2006, the University hosted the UK’s second national green roof conference, at which keynote speakers from the UK, the US, Germany and Austria inspired 230 delegates.

Green Roof Forum

In 2004 the Green Roof Forum was established in Sheffield, comprising of members from Sheffield City Council, Groundwork Sheffield, the University of Sheffield, the Environment Agency, and other interested parties.

The Forum met regularly and aimed to raise awareness about green roofs within the city and region, to push for their implementation on a wide-scale basis, and to support policy development, as well as providing a valuable networking event.

The Forum strived to secure green roof sites across South Yorkshire to raise the profile of the technology and was key to the development of green roof policy in the city. Subsequently, similar green roof forums have been established in other cities and countries.

GRID Project 2006-2008

In 2004 the University of Sheffield and Groundwork Sheffield submitted a bid to Objective1 ERDF funding to run the Green Roof Infrastructure Development project (GRID). The bid was successful and the project was launched in late 2006 with the remit to be champions for green roofs across South Yorkshire. This involved targeting construction professionals and policy makers to inform and educate them on the benefits and opportunities of green roofs.

The project comprised the following elements:

  • Provision of a central information source for anyone interested in designing or implementing green roofs
  • Generation of performance data to indicate green roof benefits in the region as the basis for impartial advice based upon robust research
  • Financial support for new green roof projects through a regional design competition
  • Development of a number of demonstration projects to stimulate interest through provision of a network of different sites in differing contexts
  • Development of a national green roof demonstration site

The project concluded in the summer of 2008, having achieved all its outputs, on time and in budget. The centre of excellence took on the title of The Green Roof Centre and continues to be a partnership project between the University of Sheffield and Groundwork Sheffield.

Green roof code of best practice 2009-2012

In 2007 Groundwork Sheffield and Green Roof Centre staff began preparing a bid for the European Commission LIFE+ fund, to develop a UK code of best practice for green roof design, specification, installation and maintenance.

At the time there are no UK-specific guidelines or standards, which meant that there was an over-reliance on European standards, which were not in tune with the UK construction practice, legislation or climate.

The bid was successful and work started on the Green Roof Code in early 2009. With assistance from major industry players such as the NFRC (National Federation of Roofing Contractors) The first GRO Green Roof Code was published in February 2011.

Green Roof Organisation (GRO)

The UK green roof industry, facilitated by the NFRC and other interested parties (including The Green Roof Centre,, the Homes and Communities Agency and the Construction Products Association) have come together to form the Green Roof Organisation (GRO) – a national forum and steering body for the development of sustainable green roofs in the UK. The creation of the code of best practice was strongly supported by GRO.

GRO has 3 principal objectives:

  • To promote the green roof concept
  • To provide suitable guidelines to manufacturers and installers
  • To recognise and promote correctly trained roofing companies

Marie Curie Project 2009-2013

In 2008, Dr Nigel Dunnett, Director of the Green Roof Centre and Professor at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape, secured funding from the EU via the Marie Curie Academic/Industry partnership programme to undertake the single largest international green roof research project to date. The three year project in partnership with ZinCo GbmH, Europe’s leading green roof supplier, re-evaluated green roof design and function in the context of climate change.

University of Sheffield buildings with green roofs

The University of Sheffield has embraced green roof technology: both for its benefits to the built environment, and to support Sheffield City Council vision of Sheffield as the UK’s green roof capital.

Most buildings the University has built since 2005 feature intentionally vegetated green roofs; and some existing buildings with suitable structures have been retro fitted with green roofs.

Sir Robert Hadfield – Green Roof Centre Demonstration Site

The Sir Robert Hadfield building is home to the Engineering Materials Department and on Floor E is the Green Roof Centre Demonstration Site. The 500m2 area is designed to show the diverse and varied opportunities and possibilities that green roofs can bring to an urban environment.

Varying depths and recipes of substrate are used throughout the site, providing a range of common green roof build-ups. Plant specification and layout was designed by Dr Nigel Dunnett and planted by volunteer students and Green Roof Centre staff.

In the centre of the roof is the Information Lodge, designed and built by Handspring Design from green oak and larch. The Lodge is green roofed with Lindum Turf’s ‘Green Roof Mix’ pre-grown mats, and houses green roof displays and real-time data logging from the on-site research.

In addition to the demonstration areas, there are 10 raised research beds which are currently being used for PhD hydrology research.

Jessop West

In January 2009 the Jessop West building became the new home to the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, the Department of History and the School of Modern Languages and Linguistics.

Designed by innovative Berlin Architects Sauerbruch Hutton, the eco-friendly building is a model of sustainability, with many features built into the design to maximise energy efficiency and make the best use of natural light.

Based around a central atrium, Jessop incorporates state-of-the-art design and comfortable working space. In addition there is a Campus Visitor Centre and café on the ground floor.

The whole building has in excess of 80% green roof cover, using highly screened demolition waste and loam as a growing medium. The green roofs and rainwater drainage are monitored as part ongoing PhD and Masters research.

Humanities Research Institute

In 2006 this existing Georgian building was refurbished to very high specifications. The extension added to the building became The Douglas Knoop Centre, and Sheffield's first green-roof development.

Providing the adjacent roof garden area to this handsome building. Imaginatively designed by the Bond Bryan partnership.

The green roof is a turf lawn with benches and ‘fresh air harvesters’, it only recently became accessible to conference attendees from the Douglas Knoop Centre.

Sound House

The Soundhouse has been specially designed to provide practice studios, rehearsal spaces and recording rooms for the University's Department of Music. The three-story building was designed by Carey Jones Architects and Jefferson Sheard Architects and was built by Kier Northern.

The building is clad in black rubber giving it a quilted appearance and earning it the nickname of the 'music box'.

The Soundhouse has a lightweight green roof of sedum blanket and competes for space with mechanical plant on this relatively small building.

Regent Court

The Regent Court building, finished in 1993 is home to several University departments, all with shared access to the internal, turfed court yard. What many of the occupants of the building don’t realise is that they are crossing a green roof every day to get in and out of their buildings. Sometimes referred to as a ‘podium deck’, the landscaped area within the four walls of the quadrangle is suspended above an underground car park.

The green roof design is a simple turf lawn with ornamental miniature furs and lavenders. Never-the-less the build-up below will be similar to most green roofs.

Arthur Willis Environment Centre

The £4.5M Arthur Willis Environment Centre was officially opened in May 2009 and is named after Arthur Willis, the late Emeritus Professor of Botany. It provides a state of the art ‘Grodome’ in which 16 discrete units can be used to simulate plant growth conditions for different regions around the globe, as well as future climate scenarios. As a facility of the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences it provides dedicated laboratory, office and meeting room space to enable researchers to investigate the wide variety of environmental challenges facing the planet.

The main enclosed part of the building has a lightweight sedum blanket green roof system, covering almost all of the roof area.

The Ridge, Ranmoor Student Village

The Ranmoor Student Village development was completed in early September 2009. It consists of 6 separate blocks with 6 floors each.

Ranmoor has an on-site central focus point named The Ridge, which takes on a similar role to The Edge in the Endcliffe village, having a bar, laundrette, services desk, meeting rooms and other services in the building.

The Ridge also has a green roof covering almost its entire area, design with a wildlife habitat in mind, the substrate is quite deep and course in nature.


The Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences Building was built in 2005 without a green roof, but with a small walled off roof area at 1st floor level, which was unused.

Opposite ICOSS used to stand Jessop’s Hospital, St Georges Block. Jessop’s was the maternity hospital for the greater Sheffield area, almost anyone born in Sheffield since 1878 was delivered in this hospital.

However, in late 2006 St Georges Block was demolished to make way for new buildings. Two tonnes, of the 150,000 tonnes of demolition waste now resides on part of the ICOSS roof, which created our very own biodiverse green roof.

Part of the area was sown with the Green Roof Centre seed mix, while the rest was left to its own devices. Only time will show what new things are born out of the Jessop’s building!

We do not advise the use of unscreened demolition waste on green roofs.

A global reputation

Sheffield is a research university with a global reputation for excellence. We're a member of the Russell Group: one of the 24 leading UK universities for research and teaching.