Rainwater runoff retention on an aged intensive green roof

A. F. Speak, J. J. Rothwell, S. J. Lindley, C. L. Smith

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Urban areas are characterised by large proportions of impervious surfaces which increases rainwater runoff and the potential for surface water flooding. Increased precipitation is predicted under current climate change projections, which will put further pressure on urban populations and infrastructure. Roof greening can be used within flood mitigation schemes to restore the urban hydrological balance of cities. Intensive green roofs, with their deeper substrates and higher plant biomass, are able to retain greater quantities of runoff, and there is a need for more studies on this less common type of green roof which also investigate the effect of factors such as age and vegetation composition. Runoff quantities from an aged intensive green roof in Manchester, UK, were analysed for 69 rainfall events, and compared to those on an adjacent paved roof. Average retention was 65.7% on the green roof and 33.6% on the bare roof. A comprehensive soil classification revealed the substrate, a mineral soil, to be in good general condition and also high in organic matter content which can increase the water holding capacity of soils. Large variation in the retention data made the use of predictive regression models unfeasible. This variation arose from complex interactions between Antecedant Dry Weather Period (ADWP), season, monthly weather trends, and rainfall duration, quantity and peak intensity. However, significantly lower retention was seen for high rainfall events, and in autumn, which had above average rainfall. The study period only covers one unusually wet year, so a longer study may uncover relationships to factors which can be applied to intensive roofs elsewhere. Annual rainfall retention for Manchester city centre could be increased by 2.3% by a 10% increase in intensive green roof construction. The results of this study will be of particular interest to practitioners implementing greenspace adaptation in temperate and cool maritime climates. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-38
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2013


  • Green roof
  • Rainwater runoff
  • Sustainable urban drainage systems


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