Haifa University has established the first green roof in the Middle East. It is also one of the first green roofs in the world to focus on how to preserve biodiversity in an urban setting.

“Green roofs or living roofs – i.e. roofs that contain growing substrate and vegetation – can mitigate many of the negative environmental impacts that urban environments create,” reported the roof’s builders the Kadas Green Roof Ecology Center. For instance, green roofs can result in decreasing energy use for heating and air conditionally, mitigate storm-water run-off, provide critical habitat for animals and plants whose environments were encroached upon due to urban planning, and can possibly decrease carbon dioxide emission that cause global warming.

A statement from Haifa University declared, “Until now, Israel has not had a research center for green roofs and research from other countries has not necessarily been applicable for the unique climate and flora of the Middle East. The new center, headed by Prof. Leon Blaustein of the University’s Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, will be examining the field in the Israeli context: Will it be possible to assemble green roofs in the Israeli climate without artificial irrigation? Will Israeli flora be reliable to serve for green roofs; and do green roofs increase the biological diversity of insets and plants?”

Prof. Leon Blaustein, who heads the Kadas Green Roof Ecology Center, asserted: “When you create a city, you’re destroying much of the natural habitat for plants and animals, and we want to mitigate this as much as possible with our rooftop habitats.” So far, Blaustein and his team have installed 48 different plant beds on top of Haifa’s University’s Student Union. His center, in addition to studying what flora can survive in Middle Eastern climate roofs and whether such roofs can indeed, increase biodiversity in arid areas, also plans to examine whether grey water (recycled sink water) can be utilized on such green roofs in an effective manner.

This project was initiated thanks to the support of an overseas donor, yet also received input from London green roofs and eco-design expert Gary Grant, among other environmental experts.Ecologists from across the globe are expected to observe how much these modules attract various insects, birds, and fauna, in order to study how to encourage biodiversity in cities that have an arid climate. Eventually, if this project proves successful, the aim is to build other green roofs on other buildings on the Haifa University campus, as well as on other buildings across the city of Haifa and in other Israeli cities. As Blaustein stated, “We’re just getting started. We are looking for collaborators outside the university, such as government and NGO officials.”

By Rachel Avraham