1000m2 of green roof space on top of VU Amsterdam’s Main Building

A blue-green research rooftop has been installed on the roof of VU Amsterdam’s Main Building. Local grasses and herbs have been planted, ponds have been created for birds and there is also a colony of wild bees. Scientists from the Amsterdam Sustainability Institute (ASI) are also using the rooftop garden for education and research. They are working on subjects such as changes in air temperature, humidity, water balance and insulation effects. Through this initiative, VU Amsterdam can make a valuable contribution to our knowledge about green roofs in Amsterdam.

10/15/2020 | 5:51 PM

Our Campus as a living lab
In various ways, the Campus is now a ‘living lab’ – a place where students and scientists are conducting research in the field of sustainability. Hydrology students, for example, are using measuring instruments to study the effects of the roof on the local climate and on peak water discharge. This data is being used to model the effect of installing blue-green roofs throughout the whole of the Zuidas area. The Ecology programme is studying the development of the plants and animals that can be found on the roof, and how the roof functions as a stepping stone within a wider ecosystem. Students of Environment and Resource Management are investigating how much value visitors to the campus attach to the ecosystem services that green roofs provide. This information represents a valuable contribution to the development of knowledge on these kinds of roofs. Environmental Humanities is placing the the use of rainwater on green roofs into a historical perspective by providing more insight into where and how rainwater was used in Amsterdam before a mains supply became available in 1853.

Willem Verduyn, Manager of Realization Management - Real Estate Management VU commented: ‘This fits in well with the university’s focus on Science for Sustainability, and with the desire to bring together education and research through a multidisciplinary approach. Community Service Learning is an important priority in our education. Community Service Learning (CSL) is a form of education whereby students apply their academic skills in a practical way to help tackle the issues we face as a society. It involves close collaboration with societal partners. The knowledge that we are acquiring through our blue-green rooftop can be applied elsewhere in Amsterdam and the Netherlands, for instance.’

The sustainable campus
The green roof will make a significant contribution to the ambition of becoming a sustainable campus. We want to ensure that we are a healthy and sustainable place for people to meet and spend time. Through the renovation work in Campusplein, for example, our ambition is to provide 20 to 30 percent more green space. We are doing this by planting adult trees as well as various bee-friendly and bird-friendly native plants and shrubs. Water is also being managed smartly: it is retained to prevent water shortages during the dry periods that we are experiencing more frequently, and it is also drained away before heavy rainfall to prevent flooding. In the future, VU Amsterdam’s energy supply will be completely natural gas-free, and powered by 100% renewable energy. We will also make use of thermal energy storage. Almost all the buildings on the VU campus have a sustainability certification. Watch this video about our rooftop garden research.

Photo: Too van Velzen