My trip to Ecobuild this March served to reinforce the idea that the focus really has shifted to installation rather than product information. There are still suppliers there showcasing new products like living wall systems, but generally I found my customers had the most successful stands and barely any competitors were there displaying individual green roof products.
So how does one choose from amongst the many installers vying to make their few square metres stand out from the crowd? Especially when many can offer such a wide range of products and service that they cannot showcase them all?
If you are lucky then you may find a specialist green roof installer who has dedicated their stand to displaying green roof systems – however there was very little of this to see this year. Some installers who did not even display green roof products reported a surprisingly high number of green roof enquiries.
Choosing a good installer is not always as straightforward as looking at a company’s track record, as there are some very successful and innovative newcomers to the market who have learnt from the experiences of others.
Any passionate salesperson will be prepared to talk in detail about their newest, most exciting product. The discerning customer needs to go in with a clear idea of what they want to achieve with their green roof, and any relevant concerns. The best installers will ask questions to find out as much as they can about each individual case, and match the best type of green roof solution to that case.
Two other important qualities to seek are an enthusiasm for plants and a basic, realistic understanding of their needs. Be wary of anyone too keen to promote sedums as the only answer, or claiming that plants will need ‘no maintenance’ or survive on an improbably shallow growing medium.
All too often green roofs are designed around immediate aesthetic impact – but what will it look like in 5-10 years’ time? Even if they don’t have a portfolio of 10 year old green roofs on display, a knowledgeable installer should be ready for an intelligent discussion of long term visual expectations and maintenance options, so that you can get the right green roof for your needs.