Unlocking the power of nature

With a long-term global goal of achieving absolute zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, Roche is continually looking at innovative ways to minimise its environmental footprint, while making a positive impact on the communities it operates in.

To support the organisation's legacy of environmental protection, conservation and sustainability, Roche Australia has partnered with one of the country's leading nature-based, living infrastructure specialists, Junglefy. Junglefy's mission is to bring the power of nature into the urban environment, by helping organisations and cities to encourage biodiversity and promote improved health and wellbeing.

"Our cities have become urban deserts for our pollinators, which are our bugs and birds," says Junglefy's CEO, Suzie Barnett. "If these pollinators are flying over the city and there's nowhere to seek shelter or respite, then they're not going to survive. It's as simple as that."

We've got to bring nature back into these areas, which will then bring the insects and the birds, so we can create those ecosystems that enable them to traverse the cities, and then potentially move out to our regional areas as well.

Roche engaged Junglefy to help turn the rooftop terrace of its Sydney office in Barangaroo, into a living ecosystem that supports urban biodiversity and enables employees to enjoy the wonders of nature, in the heart of the city.

While the Roche rooftop already existed as a 'green roof' when the company first moved into the building in 2017, it was predominantly a low lying, low maintenance green roof, that Suzie says wasn't really about the people or the pollinators.

"What Roche has been able to do is really unlock the true value of what that space represents for them, as well as for their community. And when I say community, I don't mean the residents; I actually mean our pollinator community," says Suzie. "I think Roche should be enormously proud of how they've taken that green roof, and they've converted it into a roof that actually makes a fundamental difference – not just for the health and wellbeing of the people that work there, to have a beautiful outdoor space to enjoy, but also to improve biodiversity in Sydney."

"Today, the Roche green roof demonstrates one of the best examples of the evolution of green roofs in Australia. Even in the most beautiful buildings, having access to a green roof is such a strong way to connect to that part of Sydney and to nature – but the difference between the original version of that roof and what it is now, is significant. It's truly become a biodiversity green roof," says Suzie.

A welcome sight for Roche employees, and their Sydney city neighbours, to enjoy. Images supplied by: Junglefy A welcome sight for Roche employees, and their Sydney city neighbours, to enjoy. Images supplied by: Junglefy
A welcome sight for Roche employees, and their Sydney city neighbours, to enjoy. Images supplied by: Junglefy A welcome sight for Roche employees, and their Sydney city neighbours, to enjoy. Images supplied by: Junglefy

When approaching a new living infrastructure project, such as a green roof, Junglefy looks at three critical elements:

  1. The structure of the roof (i.e. everything that sits under the ground, and the soil), ensuring it is ideal for planting and stormwater runoff. Typically, the pollution in cities rests on the buildings. When it rains, this pollution runs into stormwater drainage systems and is pushed out into waterways. The Junglefy team use a specialised mineral-based growing media, which absorbs the rainwater and traps pollutants, diverting their flow into storm water systems.

  2. Plant selection, avoiding only using the same species of plants and creating 'monocultures', which don't add any value to the biodiversity of our cities. Rather, the diversity of the plants to attract and retain pollinators at throughout the year is hugely important. This includes the right combination of tough natives that can withstand the hot conditions on the roof, as well as non-native plants.

  3. Creating habitats, such as little hollows or logs, or what Junglefy likes to refer to as "pollinator hotels", which are biodiversity habitats. Many people don't realise that a lot of the native wasps and bees don't actually cluster and hive, they live individually in burrows. By creating these little habitats for them to live, the pollinators can feel safe and secure away from birdlife.

"That's the other cool thing about creating a green roof," says Suzie. "If we use the right combination of plants, then they attract the pollinators, which then attract the smaller birds, which then attract the predatory birds. So you start to develop a full biodiversity ecosystem – all on the roof of the Roche building!"

As Roche's Facilities Specialist, Fiona Allen has been fortunate to oversee the development of the new green roof, and is looking forward to when all Roche employees can enjoy the rooftop garden together very soon.

"Junglefy designed and implemented the original rooftop landscaped gardens before we moved into The Bond in May 2017 – with Roche appreciating the health benefits to our team of having an external green space,"says Fiona."With continual care and expertise, the gardens have survived the drought and associated harsh conditions, and the rooftop has now really come into its own. It is looking amazing and absolutely at its best!"

"Over the past couple of years, I've loved seeing the insects and visiting Superb Fairy-wren birds - a true testament that what we are doing to support biodiversity is working! Importantly, it's exciting that employees coming back into the office can now also enjoy and appreciate the beauty that has been created,"says Fiona.

The benefits of green roofs can't be denied, according to a study conducted by Junglefy and its research partner, University of Technology Sydney (UTS). By comparing identical buildings – one with a green roof, the other without a green roof – the study was able to measure how biodiversity was established and determine the benefits of green roofs. The study found insect life was 8 times higher and birdlife was 4 times higher on the green roof. It also found that this ecosystem developed really quickly, in just 12 weeks.1

The rare Blue Banded Bee enjoying the fruits of the Junglefy Roof at Roche’s headquarters, in Barangaroo. Image supplied by: Junglefy
The diversity, and beauty, of the plants used by Junglefy on the Roche green roof Image supplied by: Junglefy
The diversity, and beauty, of the plants used by Junglefy on the Roche green roof Image supplied by: Junglefy

As part of its ongoing maintenance, the Junglefy team recently discovered Blue Banded Bees living on the Roche green roof. Blue Banded Bees are native to Australia, and while they can be found in regional areas (where they have ideal habitats), they are very rare in our urban settings

"As our cities have become more urban, we've lost that nature connection and that habitat," says Suzie. "This is why the Blue Banded Bee has become so rare, and other insect species as well. There are wasps and other species that used to be very common in that environment, on Gadigal land, but are now much harder to come by. And while they do have a stinger, Blue Banded Bees are unlikely to sting, so people can enjoy seeing these beautiful insects without worrying about getting stung!"

Roche employees, or visitors that come to the site, can feel enormously proud that they're creating these habitats, which are enabling pollinators to thrive again in our urban environments.

Roche is proud to have worked with Junglefy on the creation and maintenance of its Sydney green roof. To learn more about Junglefy and nature-based solutions, please visit: https://www.junglefy.com.au

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  1. University of Technology: Sydney Green Roof & Solar Array – Comparative Research Project. Final Report, July 2021.

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