news | construction september 2004

roof garden home



What follows is a breakdown of the major areas of construction for the roof garden project. This document is being circulated among parents, and friends connected to the school. Also to friends and people with special skills and expertise in relation to the project. Please do not leave it to someone else to offer advice and feedback. If ten people contact us and say have you considered such and such a funding possibility, or twenty people phone up and say " Don't be silly you are mad trying to lay a path in December'', we will not be offended - just delighted at the input. This is a grass roots community project and it depends on all of us for its success. Also my list of contacts is by no means complete. Ask around other parents to check if they are on the contact list. If there is someone you think should know about the project - then please forward this e-mail!

So area by area:


Tropical bed

Might it actually be possible to create a tropical corner in the middle of rainy Haringey? Well when you consider the soil is heated from underneath from the heat coming up through the school building; the bed will be insulated around the sides by the thermal containing walls; it is situated in a hot, south facing corner - well we can have a good go! What can we grow there? Bananas - certainly... Caliloo definitely.... figs - easy!

The containing walls of the bed itself will be made of recycled old tyres that are rendered with lime or concrete to create a smooth edge.

On a date to be announced in September we will be visited by volunteers from Brighton Earth ship project. They will be sharing their skills and teaching us how to build and render the tyre walls. This technology has been used in different ways all over the world and will be a very interesting learning experience.

What help do we need?

1 Building. We need volunteers to come in, learn how to build the wall and possibly help to finish the task over subsequent weeks
2 Cooking When we know numbers we will also be looking for someone to volunteer to cook lunch for the hungry, hard working volunteers.
3 Research .Also, help with research would be appreciated. When considering sustainability there are often arguments for and against using a particular material. It would be interesting to discover some examples of tyres being used as a building medium. What are the issues of chemicals from the tires leaching into the soil? The pros and cons of using recycled unsustainable materials - e.g. rubber? For example at about the time this school was being built - British and Peruvian rubber plantation owners were notoriously exploiting and torturing tribal peoples, forcing them to work in the rubber industry. In the 1980s the politically motivated murder of Chico Mendes a Peruvian rubber tapper and trade union organizer brought the world attention to the damage being done to rainforests though unsustainable harvesting of the rubber trees. How much rain forest is sacrificed to fulfill the demand for rubber nowadays? Does any one who comes from South America have experience of working in the industry?

And for now just keep thinking about the planting. Which tropical edible or medicinal plants would you like to see on our roof?

Contact Melissa on 020 8376 2348 e-mail
Or Alexa, e-mail


Wildlife bed

In contrast to the tropical area the plants in this bed will be indigenous - that is they can be found growing in the wild in England. We aim to create different habitats and to attract many different forms of wildlife to this bed.

The bed will contain a wildlife pond; bird and bat boxes; rotting logs to attract mini-beasts.

The boundaries and retaining walls of the bed will be built of logs and hurdles (a traditional fence making technique using willow or hazel). We will also be growing our own willow and hazel so the in the future the trees can be coppiced to repair the walls.

Timeline: The first job is to create the boundary walls and the pond- this will happen over September and early October.
Planting can begin when the soil is in place, but things will really start to take shape in the spring.

How can you help?
MAKING THE BEDS: This is a wonderful opportunity to learn a traditional fence making skill,
SOURCING MATERIALS- We need a hard pond, some pond liner, bat boxes, bird boxes. Can you help source these materials.
RESEARCH -How can we relate this area to work in the National curriculum? How has wildlife been affected in London over the last 30 years? Which birds can we expect to see?
GENERAL: if you have some particular expertise in this area or would like to help us source funding then please get in touch

Contact: Melissa on 020 8376 2348


Teaching beds

These three beds could illustrate three different building methods or they could be the same. Suggestion been made that they could be dry stone, brick, hurdles or gabions. Equally one could be made out of reclaimed wood. As retaining walls they are relatively easy to build, as they are rectangular and not needing to hold a large quantity of soil.
Timeline: During September and October.

What help do we need
*Bricks -recycled bricks, reclaimed bricks, bits of bricks even. Can anyone source these?
*Builders- We need individuals to volunteer to supervise the building of each of the three beds. If you have skills in any of the above building technologies and are prepared to take on one of these or would just like to be involved in some way in this aspect of the construction, then contact Melissa on 0208 376 2348 or e-mail


Retaining walls of beds around water feature

Introducing two more building techniques!
* Opposite the water feature on the fence side the retaining wall will feature an exciting technology pioneered by Architect Nader Khalili. It will be made out of sandbags. This building method has been employed by the world health organization to make beautiful beehive disaster proof sustainable housing in different parts of the globe.
* The far side wall will be made using recycled bottles set into concrete or lime. Imagine the sunlight glinting through the glass!

Both beds will double as seating areas.

Timeline: These beds need to be completed by the end of the Christmas term

What help do we need?
All purpose builders, laborers and general helpers. We will recruit you towards half term…


Remaining retaining walls

Well now we have a wide choice of building technologies. Through working and building together we will have more idea which work, what skills we have between us and which method we would like to employ again. It may be that we introduce another method that we haven't yet considered.

What help do we need from you?
Newly acquired skills and imagination!



Pathways will be at least 120cm wide at all points so they are wheel chair accessible. At other points, e.g. up by the teaching and compost area they will be wider so people can gather. They need to be safe, non-slippery and hard wearing. This presents one of the biggest challenges to our environmental ethos

Having considered various options we would prefer to use a decking made of a composite material of sawdust and recycled plastic. It has the advantage of being wheel chair friendly, non-slippery and guaranteed to last 40 years.

It is expensive, however, costing about £4,000, so we need to source funding. Any ideas?

Timeline -
There are arguments for sooner or later in relation to the paths construction.
It could be that the path will act as a brace for some of the retaining walls in which case will need to be constructed as they are. Apart from this its completion does not interfere with the procession of any other areas, so it could wait till after we have achieved the deadlines of building the retaining walls ready for the soil in November. If work begins in December, allowing for plenty of cancelled workdays due to bad weather, the path could be completed by mid February. This would also give us a chance to source more funding and finalize the design of the water feature.

How can you help?
Urgent priority is to get some sort of temporary path down so that we can work on the various areas. Could be chipboard. Could be the stuff they put down at festivals and garden shows. Someone to Source? Can anyone think of somewhere that might donate this?

We will be looking for parents with skills in joinery and carpentry to help.

Contact Melissa on 020 8376 2348 e-mail
Or Clive Leach on 020 84586166


Water feature

Our idea for the water feature is too build a flow form structure though which water gently trickles down, feeding into an open channel that passes back around the area and is pumped back up into the top of the flow form structure. It could demonstrate different water moving technologies -an old-fashioned water wheel; an Archimedes screw, a solar pump.

Timeline: The job for this term is to finalize the design, source materials and funding. We can start building next term.


Out door classroom

This will take the form of some kind of amphitheater. We will be working with the children to explore the possibilities for the structure and chose from a variety of designs from different tenders.

The job for this term is to work with children on the consultation and design process.

What help do we need?
The building of the roof garden will be happening at the same time that the school will be preparing to embark on major building work as a result of the amalgamation process. It will be an opportunity for the children to get an insight into the issues around design and construction. From a historical and a design and technology perspective. It is also a chance for them to experience debate and democracy first hand. How can we build this into curriculum related activities?
We need teaching staff to consider this when they are doing their lesson plans and work with us to incorporate it into the school year.



We will be ready to receive the soil in January or February. We will be raising it onto the roof by crane!

When the time comes we will need lots of volunteers to help bag it up in order for it to be transported onto the roof.

We have sourced a reputable supplier who can supply a variety of soil substrates. Alternatively some of the supply could come from building sources. This would be cheap but there are issues of contamination.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Contact Melissa on 020 8376 2348 e-mail



We need an efficient, automatic watering system. We need to consider carefully how we harvest the water, where we are going to store it, and how we are going to pump it around the site.

Currently there is a small group of people working on this with a view to submitting a funding bid for a wind turbine in October!

If you would like to be involved in this exciting technical aspect of the project then contact Clive Leach on 0208 4586166, or Jason on


Health and safety

This is a very important area and needs to be given constant priority and a high profile throughout the project.

WE have a large health and safety file and have insisted that we receive appropriate insurance and health and safety data from all our contractors.

Also each different project as well as every workday, be it with adult volunteers or children, needs its own risk assessment specific to the job in hand. We will be working with teachers and volunteer co-coordinators to achieve this

Enclosed as a separate attachment I have included our risk assessment forms and our health and safety policy as it stands at the moment.

If you are a parent with particular anxieties or a professional with specific expertise, please do not hesitate to feed back your thoughts and comments. They will all be recorded and considered.
A health and safety policy for this kind of project is necessarily evolving and we value your comments.

Contact Melissa on 020 8376 2348 e-mail

Well that sums up them initial construction areas of the project - but that is only the beginning! There are many other major areas to consider….

1 Planting - starting from February when the soil arrives. Everyone will receive a time line and a shopping list of seedlings and cuttings at the beginning of the Christmas term.

2 Ongoing planning, design and maintenance of the project. At the moment the planning meetings mainly take place at 91d Philip Lane. By the middle of the Easter term the venue will have moved to the school and will be clearly advertised. In the long term we need to form a committee to begin to take over responsibility for running and maintaining the garden.

3 Website - This is an ongoing project and we are looking for a parent with the time and skills to build a fabulous and informative site.

4 Media - how shall we manage our press coverage? Who shall we invite to the opening ceremony?!

5 Education - how will we transform the garden into a resource like a library that can be referenced by every generation of children coming through the school?

6 Communication - what are best ways to reach out to and communicate with each other. How do we keep everyone informed and included?

7 Community - how can this garden really reflect the culture knowledge wisdom and traditions of our rich diverse community?


As the garden evolves it will stand as a celebration of our diversity and co-operation. Please do not leave it too long before you get involved!


london community herbalists roof garden at north harringay primary school :: all website content © 2005