UCL Engineering Exchange


Co-designing a community garden

Residents and water scientists are co-designing a community garden for the roof of Kipling Estate in Bermondsey

An artist's depiction of how the planned community roof garden at Kipling Estate, Bermondey might look when completed

17 May 2019

The problem

Built in 1965, Kipling Estate has a large concrete play space sited on top of the estate’s garages. Residents have looked out at the concrete and imagined a green space, perhaps somewhere ornamental for residents to enjoy, or some beds for children to grow things in.  

Our solution

Greening inner city London delivers on sustainability targets (see EngEx project 'Green Infrastructure in London'). In particular it can be a way to think creatively about how we manage water. Flower beds and rainwater tanks can delay stormwater from entering the sewer during heavy rain. This could mean less sewage overflowing into the Thames. Using rainwater rather than tap water to keep gardens growing also means less strain on our drinking water supplies. 

Designing a garden that can meet residents’ aspirations, deliver on sustainability targets and be easy to develop and manage is complex. Residents from Kipling Estate will work with researchers from Imperial College and University College London to co-design a garden that meets their needs while also delivering additional benefits for local water management. 

The team will run 3 workshops in the estate between March – September 2019. The workshops will be open to all residents. Each workshop will have a series of activities that enable residents to collectively explore what they would like in the space and what environmental benefits could be produced. Residents will carry out an ‘infrastructure safari’, mapping where water goes and how it could be diverted to enable a garden. They’ll make short films depicting their ideas for the space. They’ll use specially designing apps to calculate growing possibilities and water impacts for their designs. Together with researchers they will produce a fully developed brief for a community garden and be supported in obtaining funding to implement it.  

The project is part of the NERC-funded Community Water Management for a Liveable London (CAMELLIA), an interdisciplinary, collaborative research project with multiple stakeholders that aims to explore and encourage sustainable water and environmental approaches to new housing in London. 

It is supported by the Kipling Estate Tenants and Residents’ Association, and by Leathermarket JMB, who manage Kipling Estate.