LIFE@Urban Roofs
Gepubliceerd op: 07-08-2018
Geprint op: 23-09-2021
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The future challenges the city of Rotterdam faces, are increasingly complex when it comes to keeping the city liveable and resilient. Urbanisation, internet of things, climate change. The demand on the existing space is expanding.

Therefore Rotterdam aims to lift the city to a higher level. By using it’s potential of 18 square kilometer flat roofs.


'De Peperklip' in Rotterdam now has 7,600 square meters of green roof. This special roof contributes to climate change, resilience and biodiversity in the city.

Robert Fruinstraat

In the Robert Fruinstraat three roofs haven been adapted. Two of them have a green roof, one is multifunctional. All three contribute to the challenges of climate change.

Film 'Water collection' (English) (2019)


Cover of the Rooftop Catalogue

Rotterdam has 18.5 km2 of – mostly empty – flat roofs. Why has the city only made use of a limited number of roofs, when there is so much potential in doing so? To address this topic, the City of Rotterdam commissioned MVRDV and Rotterdam Rooftop Days to produce a catalogue of 130 innovative ideas to make use of the city’s roofs, giving rise to a fantastic new phase of development in Rotterdam. 

Rotterdammers are increasingly becoming used to seeing green roofs and even rooftop forests, thanks to the completion of MVRDV’s Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen. Yet flat roofs can be used for much more, for example storing water or as an event space. The Rooftop Catalogue offers an inspiring overview of no less than 130 different possibilities, from personal offices to sports fields to a cemetery. 

The Rooftop Catalogue shows how roof use can be a solution for the scarcity of space in the city and how it can help to prevent the city from expanding outwards into rural areas. The book aims to inspire people, showing why we should take to the skies and how reprogramming rooftops can help with major issues such as climate change, a lack of housing, and the transition to renewable energy. The catalogue addresses the practical side of using roofs: What are the different options for construction? Which ideas are suitable for which types of building? 

The Rooftop Catalogue also offers a glimpse of the future; what will it take to make this a reality? 'I think we need a new Building Code, or rather a Rooftop Code, with a helpdesk for the homeowners’ associations and corporations that take the initiative. You should be able to stack the four elements – water, greenery, energy, and population – on top of each other, like a sandwich. It should be defined in some kind of regulation that rooftops should be able to support that weight. Stronger structures are more sustainable', says MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas. 

The launch of the Rooftop Catalogue is part of Rotterdam Architecture Month, when MVRDV and other Rotterdam architecture firms showcase their work and ideas. 

The Rooftop Catalogue (published by Rotterdam Roof Days) was produced by MVRDV on behalf of the municipality of Rotterdam. The 148-page catalogue will be presented at a live event on June 3, 8pm.

Tool Multifunctional Rooftops  

The Multifunctional Rooftops Tool from Arcadis, the municipality of Rotterdam and LIFE@Urban Roofs helps you make investment decisions. Get insight into the financial business case and the social costs and benefits of your multifunctional roof! Think for example of the effects on health, biodiversity, water storage or energy generation. The tool helps you to optimise your roof design, to establish a sound business case, but above all to use your roof to contribute to a pleasant working and living environment in the city! 

In three easy steps, you run through the tool in 15 minutes. More information can be found in the explanation of the Multifunctional Roofs Tool (PDF).

LIFE@Urban Roofs

The subsidy funds three locations in the city: Peperklip, Robert Fruinstraat and De Heuvel. All these locations need maintenance on their roofs and outdoor spaces within the next five years. A perfect moment to investigate new functions of the rooftops.

For example by:

  • temporarily buffering rain water to unburden the sewage system
  • greening roofs
  • generate local and clean energy
  • and, if possible, social functions.

LIFE is a subsidy programme from the European Commission. It's meant to support environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects across the EU. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed over 4,500 projects.


The main objective of LIFE@Urban Roofs, is to provide private parties with insights in the advantages of multifunctional rooftop usage. By the end of the project more information will be available about the value of investing in climate actions. New forms of collaboration and investment models will be investigated and realised.

As part of the project, an experimental roof will be installed. With this we test innovations in the field of multifunctional rooftop use. Suppliers can use the roof to research and demonstrate. Furthermore, a design contest will stimulate building owners and designers to develop a plan for a multifunctional rooftop. And actually install the designed plan.

The LIFE project will end in 2022.

Multifunctional roofs

The municipality of Rotterdam has been a front runner on green roofs for years. At the current moment over 360,000 square meter of green roofs have been installed in the city. Furthermore some 75,000 square meter of solar panels have been installed on rooftops as well.  Gradually a change is taking place from green roofs towards multifunctional rooftop use.

A more profitable business case can be developed for entrepreneurs by combining various functions on rooftops. Citizens can benefit from multifunctional roofs because of their added value in liveability. Currently, we differentiate four colours/ functions:

  • Green roofs provide greening and biodiversity in the city
  • Blue roofs retain rainwater and provide delayed drainage
  • Yellow roofs generate sustainable energy
  • Red roofs provide social functions, tackle lack of space and enhance social cohesion

Each colour represents a certain value and by combining these values clear added value is created. More information can be found on (Dutch only).


Innovation can’t be done alone. On three different locations, the municipality of Rotterdam cooperates with Rotterdam based partners. Vestia, Stichting Arosa, De Rotterdamsche Vastgoed Maatschappij, Stichting Gebouw De Heuvel and Trivestor Beleggingen. The international partner is the municipality of Vejle in Denmark. The municipality of Rotterdam applied for the subsidy on behalf of the partners.

With the help of this LIFE-project Rotterdam becomes more climate proof. These initiatives add to the targets of the existing programmes to make the city more sustainable. Like Resilient Rotterdam and Water Sensitive Rotterdam.


The Social Cost Benefit Analysis (SCBA) tool, made by Arcadis Nederland BV and CE Delft can be found here: