Punctured footballs, tattered tennis balls – and tomatoes? Of all the things you might expect to find on the roof of a primary school, vegetables probably aren’t first on the list. But all that might be about to change as a local inventor has drafted plans for a greenhouse on top of a school in Hackney.
Charlie Paton, 62, has lived and worked on Forest Road for over thirty years, and owns Seawater Greenhouse, a Hackney-based company which has pioneered new technologies allowing year-round crop production in some of the world’s hottest and driest regions.
After finishing work on an extensive project in Australia in 2010, Paton focussed his attention on a smaller-scale development much closer to his heart.
Rooftop Greenhouse, his new venture, began when he and his son Adam, a construction worker, extended his company’s headquarters in London Fields. Adhering to strict planning guidelines, they created a sustainable, three-storey structure with a fully functioning greenhouse on the roof.
The structure itself was deemed so successful that University of Sheffield students studied it as a model of sustainability.
One of the best features of Paton’s rooftop greenhouse is that it captures daytime heat, which is then used to warm up the building below. At night, heat from the building keeps the plants warm. This cycle significantly cuts heating costs to both the building and the greenhouse.
The Paton family are also now able to eat their own seasonal vegetables every day. As the greenhouse nears its second year, Paton believes that local schoolchildren could also benefit from rooftop gardening.
Hoping to gain funding from the government’s new Greenius initiative, which seeks “innovative solutions to questions of food, water and energy sustainability”, he has approached Brook Community Primary School on Sigdon Road with a proposal that has been enthusiastically received by staff.
Paton said: “Every school would benefit from a rooftop greenhouse. It helps to make the school more self-sufficient. It saves water, keeps heating costs down, and can be used as a teaching aid for children to learn how food is grown.”