Posted in Caregiving

4 steps to avert a full-blown coronavirus disaster in Victoria’s aged care homes

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Joseph Ibrahim, Monash University

As of July 22, the total number of COVID-19 infections nationally was 12,896, with 128 deaths. This figure includes 43 aged-care residents.

In Victoria, at least 45 aged-care facilities have now reported outbreaks, with about 383 positive cases in the sector overall (including among staff).

St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner and Estia Health in Ardeer have the largest number of cases: 73 and 67 respectively.

Although these outbreaks don’t compare to what we’ve seen internationally, the rising case numbers within Victorian aged-care homes are of grave national concern.

We’ll need a concerted community effort to arrest this looming disaster.


Read more: Why are older people more at risk of coronavirus?


Aged care was in crisis even before COVID-19

The interim report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety laid bare the system failures in the provision of aged care in Australia.

These deficits include workforce and skill shortages. A report on the sector’s performance between October and December 2019 found around 20% of facilities audited did not meet standards in “safe and effective personal and clinical care”, while 13% fell short on the measure of a “safe, clean and well-maintained service environment”.

This makes aged-care homes highly vulnerable to any external disaster.

Several other factors set the scene for infection transmission in aged care, including its design. Residential aged care is intended to provide a home-like physical environment. While this serves an important purpose, it means aged-care homes may be missing some clinical features needed for optimal infection control, such as prominent placement of multiple hand basins.

Aged-care homes are designed differently to clinical settings like hospitals. Shutterstock

Communal spaces and a high volume of foot traffic (residents, staff, external contractors and visitors) also increase the risk of infection, while some residents have shared rooms and bathrooms.

And residents have a range of cognitive and physical disabilities that can make it difficult to adhere to the fundamental infection control measures of social distancing and handwashing.

COVID-19 and the elderly

We had early warning of the catastrophic effects of COVID-19 in aged-care homes in March and April from countries like Spain and Italy, which saw widespread outbreaks and deaths in nursing homes.

While roughly one-third of COVID-19 deaths in Australia so far have been aged-care residents, a review taking in 26 countries found this group has accounted for almost half of coronavirus deaths.


Read more: Banning visitors to aged care during coronavirus raises several ethical questions – with no simple answers


Severe illness and death from COVID-19 is more likely in older people because they tend to have lower immunity, less biological reserve and higher rates of chronic conditions such as type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure and renal disease.

One study found the case-fatality rate — the proportion of people who get COVID-19 who will die — is 33.7% for aged-care residents.

Avoiding disaster

We need a coordinated, standardised, compassionate, supportive response to prevent premature deaths, and to minimise psychological harm to residents, families and staff.

Different aged-care homes will need different strategies to suit their varying circumstances. For example, facilities located in areas without community transmission, such as South Australia, will be different to those where there’s community spread, like in NSW and Victoria. And the needs of those homes with an active outbreak, such as St Basil’s or Estia Health, will be different again.

But broadly speaking, I believe these four key pillars are applicable to all aged-care homes.

1. Stop COVID-19 entering

In areas where there’s community transmission, all aged-care homes should be put into lockdown, with tight controls at entry and exit points. This should be done as humanely as possible, for example by creating teams to keep residents connected to family and community, and with exceptions for essential visitors.

Staff should be tested routinely and counselled about limiting contact with other people outside the workplace. Staff should also only work in one facility, and be allocated the same group of residents (to minimise the number of contacts in the event of a confirmed or suspected infection).

Finally, the development and provision of specific guidance, training and support around the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential. Individual homes should be supported to engage experienced infection control nurses to train staff if possible on site.

We’ve known since early in the pandemic that older people are more susceptible to COVID-19. Shutterstock

2. Be prepared in case it does

Every aged-care home in Australia should have a “risk and readiness” rating to determine the likelihood of a COVID-19 outbreak and the facility’s ability to prevent and manage an initial infection.

This would include factors such as the experience and size of the aged-care provider, location of the facility, the size and structure of the building, ventilation, access to open spaces, the residents’ profile, staff numbers and skills, and past performance in accreditation audits.

And each home should have designated vacant rooms to be ready for isolation of any suspected cases.

Finally, the government should establish a national rapid response and advisory team dedicated to the management of aged-care homes during COVID-19. This would strengthen existing public health response units and should include clinicians with expertise in aged care.


Read more: Our ailing aged care system shows you can’t skimp on nursing care


3. Respond quickly and decisively when an outbreak occurs

Aged-care homes along with public health units should have protocols for coordination of their on-site response, with clear lines of accountability for action and escalation.

They should rapidly separate residents when an outbreak occurs, rather than relying on a continued usual model of care with the addition of PPE.

Aged-care homes require productive partnerships with hospitals to ensure residents can get the specialised care they need. Wherever possible, all confirmed cases should be sent to a clinical setting such as an acute or sub-acute hospital.

And importantly, all homes should have dedicated communication channels to keep family members informed.

4. Learn from past experience

The two major aged-care outbreaks in NSW, particularly the one in Newmarch House, attracted national attention. But we’re still awaiting a public statement from government about the lessons learned.

There are also ongoing inquiries into COVID-19 in aged care by a senate committee and the Royal Commission. But neither are due to report for some time.

The government should release interim reports into the investigations of recent outbreaks which might give us valuable information about reducing transmission.

Eliminating COVID-19 outbreaks from aged-care homes reduces community transmission, the need for hospital care and reduces premature death. This benefits the whole nation.


Read more: Why prisons in Victoria are locked up and locked down


Joseph Ibrahim, Professor, Health Law and Ageing Research Unit, Department of Forensic Medicine, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Posted in Caregiving

‘Ageing in neighbourhood’: what seniors want instead of retirement villages and how to achieve it

Photo by Şahin Sezer Dinçer on Pexels.com

Caroline Osborne, University of the Sunshine Coast and Claudia Baldwin, University of the Sunshine Coast

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need for connection to our local community and the health challenges of the retirement village model.

We know that, as we age, most people prefer to stay in their own homes and communities instead of moving to retirement villages. Some have gone so far as to say retirement villages have had their day. However, the reality is not quite that simple.


Read more: Retire the retirement village – the wall and what’s behind it is so 2020


The challenge is that seniors are not well informed on what they could demand of the market. Planning schemes could also do more to create incentives for the changes we need now.

The challenges are complex and urgent as the global population grows and ages. Yet our housing supply reveals a bad case of the tail wagging the dog. Finely tuned financial models and development processes are driving the housing products available in the market.

What’s needed instead is adaptable housing and neighbourhoods to help people as they move through life’s stages.

Are the days of the retirement village numbered?

Many individuals and families struggle to find the right “fit” between the supported living options of retirement villages, independent living lifestyle villages and staying in the (often unsuitable) family home as their needs change.

Such villages offer viable products in the market as an important part of the housing mix. The models have some advantages in that they:

  • are thoroughly costed and provide a good return for developers
  • offer a range of living options to suit most budgets and level of care needs
  • promise security, activities and a sense of community.

Seniors are best placed to say what they need

However, our research with seniors in south-east Queensland revealed a desire to “age in neighbourhood” and to have neighbourhoods with a mix of ages and building forms.

Planning schemes could drive this now by giving priority to, and providing incentives for, sustainable and accessible housing close to transport and other services.

We worked with more than 42 seniors in south-east Queensland to design a series of housing types. These were based on what they told us were important to them in a home and a neighbourhood.

The table below summarises the key features that they told us make a neighbourhood and a home a good place to live as they age.

The resulting principles and housing types paint a vivid picture of what older people in a subtropical environment find appealing and supportive as they age.

Many participants preferred an accessible home on one level. Ideally, it should have two bedrooms and a study. This means it can easily be adapted to changing needs.

An essential component for our participants was to take advantage of the mild climate by having both private and shared outdoor spaces. Here they could socialise, relax and enjoy pleasant outlooks from the home. Cutting planning requirements for car parks by 50% could add more shared outdoor space and cut housing and living costs for residents.

Homes should be sustainably designed. This means they capture natural light and prevailing breezes for through ventilation, take into account privacy and noise considerations in higher-density areas, and have solar and rainwater harvesting systems to save resources and money.

Also important was a neighbourhood with a variety of green, clean and safe public open spaces. This includes flat, well-maintained and shaded walkways for exercise and easy access to shops, facilities and public transport.

We then showed how all these housing types could be incorporated into one Brisbane suburb, as the image below illustrates. This would mean seniors could remain in their neighbourhood in more suitable housing, reducing the stress of moving to unfamiliar surroundings.

How to make it happen

As with all complex challenges, everyone has a role to play in achieving these goals. However, local government planning reforms can act as a catalyst for the market to change and innovate.

Planning schemes could, for example, reduce application fees for developments that include accessible or universal design within 400-800 metres of key services, facilities and transport.

Carpark allocation could also be uncoupled from housing in locations close to transport and services. This would reduce the cost of housing and encourage greater used of active (cycling, walking, etc) and public transport.

This research clearly signals to local and state government, developers and small-scale property investors how houses, duplexes and mid-rise apartments could be put together in an age-friendly suburb. This transition to mixed-density infill development would support what we call “ageing in neighbourhood”.

Further, this research suggests planning “priority zones” could give the market the incentive to invest in the future-focused neighbourhood development it should be providing to keep people connected to their community.


This article was co-authored by Phil Smith, Associate Director of Deicke Richards at the time of publication of the research report. Phil Smith is Director of Gomango Architects.

Caroline Osborne, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Office of Community Engagement, University of the Sunshine Coast and Claudia Baldwin, Professor, Urban Design and Town Planning, Co-director, Sustainability Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Posted in Ageing & Culture, Caregiving

How coronavirus exposes the way we regard ageing and old people

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Shir Shimoni, King’s College London

The elderly have come to occupy a central place in our news bulletins these days. Headlines were quick to inform the public that the highest mortality rate from COVID-19 is in people aged 70 and over. Experts have repeatedly announced that the pandemic is severe and the virus is especially dangerous for the elderly. This has frequently been delivered as a kind of reassuring message to the public – as long as they are under 70.

This news coverage not only emphasises that the elderly are at much higher risk but also describes them as a passive and vulnerable minority. This kind of portrayal ultimately strengthens the idea that old people impose an undue burden on society and more specifically on the health system, and that addressing their needs might endanger younger people.

In times of public emergency, social truths are revealed. The coronavirus crisis is one such emergency, and it reveals that the lives of the elderly appear to matter less and, in some cases, are even deemed disposable. Some went so far as to commend the virus, calling it a “boomer remover”.

Against this backdrop we must also understand a number of other recent cultural trends that have helped to engender a heightened ambivalence towards old people. My research into cultural representations of the elderly has demonstrated a striking increase in this group’s representation in popular and mainstream media.

The crisis, however, has drawn attention to the dramatic global increase in the number of ageing people relative to the general population, the economic resources necessary to ensure their well-being, and the fact that many occupy positions of power in the political, economic, social and cultural landscape.

Visibility of the elderly

As a researcher studying the representation of the ageing in popular culture, I have found the depiction of older people has shifted over the last decade, reflected not only in the way their lives are more visible in everything from film and television to social media, but also in terms of a more positive representation.

Hollywood’s interest in the lives of older people is reflected with ever greater frequency, with a whole host of films from 2003’s Something’s Gotta Give to 2011’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, to Scorsese’s 2019 epic The Irishman, and in the proliferation of TV series such as Netflix’s Grace and Frankie and The Kominsky Method.

This trend is also noticeable in a wide range of newspapers and magazines, while books designed to inspire people to view their “third act” as an opportunity to finally realise themselves have become instant bestsellers. Social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram have participated in this celebration of older people too, where many have transformed into social media stars, attracting thousands of followers to their dynamic and upbeat profiles. Across these media, ageing people are presented as happy, resilient self-starters.

The reality for many

This is clearly informed by the widespread understanding that they constitute potential consumers, often with considerable buying power. However, this positive representation cannot be understood simply as a reflection of commercial interests.

It is also aims to conceal the impact of neoliberal policies – which have eviscerated the social safety net through deregulation, privatisation and regressive taxes – on the vast majority of older people. As the ageing population has grown in size, the responsibility for health and wellbeing has been deflected from the state on to individuals through austerity measures and the erosion of social welfare.

Ageing people’s “third age” is presented in popular culture as a time to reinvent themselves, and as a phase of new opportunities. By depicting older people as self-reliant, popular culture encourages them to focus on their self-care and to constantly enhance their individual qualities, whether these qualities are aesthetic, emotional or professional.

In short, as market logic has led to reduced state investment in welfare infrastructure and the care economy, we have witnessed a cultural response that encourages ageing people to assume responsibility for their own health and happiness. This is a position that might be tenable for the more affluent, but it is unfeasible for the vast majority of elderly people.

It is precisely in this context that we need to understand the representation of older people in a time of COVID-19. The warnings delivered to the elderly since the coronavirus outbreak expose our culture’s ambivalence and profound denial of ageing. It also highlights the government’s refusal to acknowledge frailty since such an acknowledgement would mean admitting that years of slashing programmes designed to safeguard the elderly have amounted to an abdication of its responsibility.

Austerity policies in the UK have meant that the safety net for old people has been eroded. Shutterstock

As people are living longer, there has been an explosion of positive portrayals of older individuals which focus on good health, affluence and independence. Meanwhile, the entrenchment of neoliberalism and austerity policies have meant that states like the UK are much less able to cope with the pandemic, while forcing those on the frontlines to make impossible choices.

While COVID-19 clearly reveals to all of us how much we need and depend on each other, the social imperative aimed at the ageing population remains the same: defy ageing for as long as possible and avoid becoming socially superfluous.

Shir Shimoni, PhD candidate, Culture, Media and Creative Industries, King’s College London

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Posted in Caregiving

The home hospital model of care reduces costs and improves quality of care

News Release
December 2019| Brigham and Women’s Hospital: Home Hospital Reduces Costs, Improves Care

First randomized controlled trial of home hospital model in the U.S. reports improvements in outcomes meaningful to health systems and patients – sets stage for transformation of acute care delivery

Boston, MA — The home hospital model of care — in which select patients receive hospital-level care for an acute illness from the comfort of their own home instead of in a traditional hospital — has become increasingly popular across the United States. A pilot study conducted by investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital indicated that the home hospital model has the potential to lower costs and improve care. Now, the results of the investigators’ randomized controlled trial with more patients strengthens the evidence, showing that home hospital care reduced cost, utilization, and readmissions while increasing physical activity compared with usual hospital care. Results are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

“This work cements the idea that, for the right patients, we can deliver hospital-level care outside of the four walls of the traditional hospital and provides more of the data we need to make home hospital care the standard of care in our country,” said corresponding author David Levine, MD, MPH, MA, a physician and researcher in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care. “It opens up so many exciting possibilities — it’s exciting for patients because it gives them the opportunity to be in a familiar setting, and it’s exciting for clinicians because we get to be with a patient in that person’s own surroundings. As a community-minded hospital, this is a way for us to bring excellent care to our community.”

Levine and colleagues enrolled 91 adults into their trial. Each patient had been admitted via the emergency department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital or Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital with a select acute condition — including infection, heart failure exacerbation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation and asthma exacerbation — and lived within five miles of the hospital. Patients were randomized to either stay at the hospital and receive standard care or receive care at home, which included nurse and physician home visits, intravenous medications, remote monitoring, video communication and point-of-care testing.

The team measured the total direct cost of care, including costs for nonphysician labor, supplies, medications and diagnostic tests. They found that for patients who received care at home, total costs were 38 percent lower than for control patients. Home hospital patients had fewer lab orders, used less imaging and had fewer consultations. The team also found that home hospital patients spent a smaller portion of their day sedentary or lying down and had lower readmission rates within 30 days than control patients. Because of the strength of its positive findings, the study was stopped early.

Levine notes that payment remains a challenge for the home hospital model, in part because most insurance companies do not yet recognize the home as a place where hospital-level care happens, although Brigham is making headway with insurers. With the conclusion of the trial, the Brigham is now increasing home hospital capacity to make it clinically available to more patients.

Levine and his colleagues are continuing to test and improve the home hospital model.

“We know there’s always more work to be done, and so we pride ourselves on being a continuous learning and innovation shop,” he said. “We’re now launching trials that include remote patient care, we’re adding artificial intelligence to home hospital care and we’re even exploring ways to bring home hospital care to rural settings. We’ll continue to refine and spread this model so that even more patients can get home hospital care.”

This work is supported by the Partners HealthCare Center for Population Health and internal departmental funds. Levine reports grants from Biofourmis outside the submitted work. A co-author reports consulting income from Verily, GreyBird Ventures, and Atlas5D outside the submitted work. A co-author reports grants from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and Portola Pharmaceuticals outside the submitted work. Disclosures can also be viewed here.

Posted in Caregiving

A guidebook for local governments and community based organisations to support elderly people with waste collection

CAPTION
The basic tasks involved in support programs are collecting and transporting wastes from elderly people’s homes, the details of the system depend on who transports the wastes and where they go. For example, activities that enlist neighbourhood residents to help the elderly take out the trash can serve as an impetus to community building.
CREDIT NIES

Taking out the trash is a daily chore that we don’t think out often. We pop our rubbish down the chute in our apartments, push out the wheelie bins once a week or just dump our bags of rubbish in the communal bins. For older adults who may be living alone and experience social isolation, taking out the rubbish may be a very challenging tasks. In a previous experience volunteering to provide help in cleaning up homes for older adults, some older adults may end up hording trash or unwanted items in their homes. Items range from take away boxes to bigger items such as a damaged mattress that had a hole in the middle. Some older adults may be caregiver to spouses or they may be living alone in isolation with chronic ailments such as osteoarthritis, neuropathic pain, pulmonary issues etc. Environments they live in may be age-friendly or supportive in aiding them with make the task easier. Some smaller apartments may not have elevators, and older adults have to climb multiple flights of stairs. They may be living on a property that may not be levelled, or one with slopes and uneven paths.

Visiting some of the homes that were labelled “unsanitary” or “hoarders”, it is clear that these individuals really just required help in taking out the rubbish and they don’t want to have trash sitting around in the house but it was just too challenging to take the rubbish out. As rubbish accumulates in the home, older adults get stressed as well, recognising that they live in squalor but not knowing where to seek help. Some older adults have even mentioned that they were embarrassed to seek help and for people to witness them living in such conditions. In many countries, older adults have not know where to seek help or have the financial means to attain help at home with little tasks, however with a little help, they will be able to age in place positively in the community. One such couple I met in their 80s only had some primary school education, little health literacy, no family and they were both working as cleaners due to little financial support despite the fact that one of them was living with vascular dementia. The irony was that they had spent the day cleaning public places, by the time they were done they were physically too tired to clean their home resulting in self-neglect. We all can relate to feeling tired after a long day at work, and these older adults were on their feet for hours at a time in the day, and at 80 continuing to contribute to society, refusing to be a burden at the expense of their physical and mental health. A program such as this, having community organisations lend a hand can contribute greatly to the quality of life to the older adults living in the community and reducing waste management issues. Sometimes, it just needs a little step in the right direction and it can contribute greatly to the ability of older adults being able to age in place. Below is a news release of the guidebook and information related to the program. You can also find a web link to the guidebook below.

CAPTION
The core issue related to taking out the trash by the elderly is that increasing numbers of elderly people find it difficult to take out the trash but are unable to receive the support they need. The inability to take out the trash by elderly people can lead to three different consequences: a) storing the trash in the house, b) taking out the trash improperly, and c) continuing to take out the trash even though it is too difficult.
CREDIT NIES

NEWS RELEASE 12th DEC 2019: NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

One of the issues related to waste management in aging society is helping elderly people who find it difficult to take out the trash. In the face of the aging of society and increasing numbers of nuclear (one- and two-generation) family households, more and more elderly people are in need of support.

In Japan, many local governments have introduced a program to support elderly people taking out their trash. Through our research, we have come to realize that helping the elderly to dispose of waste will not only ensure that waste is reliably collected from their households, but also improve their quality of life, help prevent isolation, foster trust in waste management businesses, and help promote stronger community ties.

CAPTION
In Japan, as of 2015, 23% of local governments offered programs supporting collection of ordinary waste, recyclable materials, and bulky waste. Such programs were in effect in roughly 80% of ordinance-designated major cities, but in less than 10% of towns and villages.
CREDIT NIES

This scientific research based guidebook is an English edited version of our Japanese guidebook to help local governments and community based organizations (CBOs) design and operate programs to support the elderly taking out their trash. Based on examples and data collected through reserch, it contains explanation on the background of this issue, methods to support the elderly, and process to design a program to provide support.

“Let’s Take Out the Trash!”
A Guidebook for Local Governments and CBOs to Support Elderly People. For a copy of the guide, please visit http://www-cycle.nies.go.jp/eng/report/aging2_en.html
Posted in Caregiving, The Built Environment

Green roofs improve the urban environment – so why don’t all buildings have them?

Green roofs improve the urban environment – so why don’t all buildings have them?

USEPA/Flickr.

Michael Hardman, University of Salford and Nick Davies, University of Salford

Rooftops covered with grass, vegetable gardens and lush foliage are now a common sight in many cities around the world. More and more private companies and city authorities are investing in green roofs, drawn to their wide-ranging benefits which include savings on energy costs, mitigating the risk from floods, creating habitats for urban wildlife, tackling air pollution and urban heat and even producing food.

A recent report in the UK suggested that the green roof market there is expanding at a rate of 17% each year. The world’s largest rooftop farm will open in Paris in 2020, superseding similar schemes in New York City and Chicago. Stuttgart, in Germany, is thought of as “the green roof capital of Europe”, while Singapore is even installing green roofs on buses.

These increasingly radical urban designs can help cities adapt to the monumental challenges they face, such as access to resources and a lack of green space due to development. But buy-in from city authorities, businesses and other institutions is crucial to ensuring their success – as is research investigating different options to suit the variety of rooftop spaces found in cities.

A growing trend

The UK is relatively new to developing green roofs, and governments and institutions are playing a major role in spreading the practice. London is home to much of the UK’s green roof market, mainly due to forward-thinking policies such as the 2008 London Plan, which paved the way to more than double the area of green roofs in the capital.

Although London has led the way, there are now “living labs” at the Universities of Sheffield and Salford which are helping to establish the precedent elsewhere. The IGNITION project – led by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority – involves the development of a living lab at the University of Salford, with the aim of uncovering ways to convince developers and investors to adopt green roofs.

Ongoing research is showcasing how green roofs can integrate with living walls and sustainable drainage systems on the ground, such as street trees, to better manage water and make the built environment more sustainable.

Research is also demonstrating the social value of green roofs. Doctors are increasingly prescribing time spent gardening outdoors for patients dealiong with anxiety and depression. And research has found that access to even the most basic green spaces can provide a better quality of life for dementia sufferers and help prevent obesity.

An edible roof at Fenway Park, stadium of the Boston Red Sox.
Michael Hardman, Author provided

In North America, green roofs have become mainstream, with a wide array of expansive, accessible and food-producing roofs installed in buildings. Again, city leaders and authorities have helped push the movement forward – only recently, San Francisco created a policy requiring new buildings to have green roofs. Toronto has policies dating from the 1990s, encouraging the development of urban farms on rooftops.

These countries also benefit from having newer buildings, which make it easier to install green roofs. Being able to store and distribute water right across the rooftop is crucial to maintaining the plants on any green roof – especially on “edible roofs” which farm fruit and vegetables. And it’s much easier to create this capacity in newer buildings, which can typically hold greater weight, than retro-fit old ones. Having a stronger roof also makes it easier to grow a greater variety of plants, since the soil can be deeper.

The new normal?

For green roofs to become the norm for new developments, there needs to be buy-in from public authorities and private actors. Those responsible for maintaining buildings may have to acquire new skills, such as landscaping, and in some cases volunteers may be needed to help out. Other considerations include installing drainage paths, meeting health and safety requirements and perhaps allowing access for the public, as well as planning restrictions and disruption from regular ativities in and around the buildings during installation.

To convince investors and developers that installing green roofs is worthwhile, economic arguments are still the most important. The term “natural capital” has been developed to explain the economic value of nature; for example, measuring the money saved by installing natural solutions to protect against flood damage, adapt to climate change or help people lead healthier and happier lives.

As the expertise about green roofs grows, official standards have been developed to ensure that they are designed, built and maintained properly, and function well. Improvements in the science and technology underpinning green roof development have also led to new variations on the concept.

For example, “blue roofs” increase the capacity of buildings to hold water over longer periods of time, rather than drain away quickly – crucial in times of heavier rainfall. There are also combinations of green roofs with solar panels, and “brown roofs” which are wilder in nature and maximise biodiversity.

If the trend continues, it could create new jobs and a more vibrant and sustainable local food economy – alongside many other benefits. There are still barriers to overcome, but the evidence so far indicates that green roofs have the potential to transform cities and help them function sustainably long into the future. The success stories need to be studied and replicated elsewhere, to make green, blue, brown and food-producing roofs the norm in cities around the world.


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Michael Hardman, Senior Lecturer in Urban Geography, University of Salford and Nick Davies, Research Fellow, University of Salford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.