The influence of substrate and vegetation configuration on green roof hydrological performance
Stovin, V., Poë, S., De-Ville, S. and Berretta, C., 2015

A four-year record of rainfall and runoff data from nine different extensive (80 mm substrate) green roof test beds has been analysed to establish the extent to which the substrate composition and vegetation treatment affect hydrological performance. The test beds incorporated three different substrate components with different porosity and moisture retention characteristics, and three different vegetation treatments (Sedum, Meadow Flower and unvegetated).

Consistent differences were observed, with the vegetated beds showing higher levels of rainfall retention and better detention compared with unvegetated beds. The seasonal Meadow Flower beds had similar hydrological performance to Sedum-vegetated beds. There was a 27% performance reduction in annual volumetric retention attributable to differences in substrate and vegetation. The beds with the most porous/permeable substrates showed the lowest levels of both retention and detention.

As with previous studies, retention efficiency in all nine beds showed a strong dependency on rainfall depth (P), with retention typically >80% for events where P < 10 mm, but significantly lower when P > 10 mm. The effects of vegetation and substrate were most evident for rainfall events where P > 10 mm, with the mean per-event retention varying between beds from 26.8% to 61.8%. On average, the test beds were able to retain the first 5 mm of rainfall in 65% of events where P > 5 mm, although this ranged from 29.4% to 70.6% of events depending on configuration. In terms of detention, all but one of the test beds could achieve runoff control to a green field runoff equivalent of 2 l/s/ha for more than 75% of events.

Detention was also characterised via the calibration of a reservoir-routing model that linked net rainfall to the measured runoff response. The parameter values identified here – when combined with a suitable evapotranspiration/retention model – provide a generic mechanism for predicting the runoff response to a time-series or design rainfall for any unmonitored system with comparable components, permitting comparison against local regulatory requirements.