Improving the quality of life in cities with green roofs

About Plantica GmbH

  • Founders: Matthew Lebrancho, Philippe Lebrancho, Sophie Kaltner, Theresa Matzinger
  • Founded: 2022
  • Staff: 1
  • Funds raised: €50,000 through grants; pilot projects covering costs; Among the top three Greenstart 2021 finalists, Climate Launch Pad participant, Re:Wien participant, Clean Cities ClimAccelerator participant;
  • Ultimate goal: Expand the potential of green roofs in cities to increase quality of life and biodiversity

Green roofs have many advantages: they act as carbon dioxide2 Pipettes, which are currently in short supply in cities. They also store water and can relieve stress on the sewage system during heavy rains. In summer, they form a heat shield and can support the performance of air conditioning systems, a cooling effect that works not only on the inside of the building but also on the surrounding area. However, most surfaces cannot be greened with conventional systems. That may soon change, as Matthew Lebrancho and four co-founders of the startup Plantica have a solution, Lebrancho tells us in this episode of the Start-up-of-the-day series.

A man and two women wearing white shirts and jeans
Matthew Lebrancho, Sophie Kaltner, Theresa Matzinger (c) Plantica

You’ve already studied biotechnology – how did you come up with green roofs?

The idea for green roofs came from practical experience. My father is a roofer and part of his job is green roofs. However, there is a problem that mainly flat roofs can be greened. In fact, greening of sloping roofs is possible only if this is already taken into account at the planning stage. In addition, it has not yet been possible to cover the roofs of tiles and sheet metal in green. But if you look at Vienna from above, the city consists almost exclusively of brick and tin-roofed buildings.

The idea was immediately met with interest. So we asked ourselves how we can expand the potential of green roofs for cities and thus increase the quality of life in cities.

What is your motive?

The number of hot days and tropical nights is increasing. While there was still an average of 9.6 free days with more than 30°C per year in Vienna between 1961 and 1990, this value increased to an average of 15.2 annual heat days by 2010 (Source: Het Urban Islands – VSP / ZAMG 2012). This is due to the fact that many areas are closed, which affects the quality of life. We want to contribute to climate protection and change. That is why everything is so well thought out in our company. We only use recyclable materials and want to move to sustainable materials later. Moreover, we can also bring nature back to cities and thus increase biodiversity.

Also interesting: the implementation of the right to ecological space in cities.

But green roofs are also an argument we want to use to counter the trend towards air conditioning. A study showed that every second of Viennese residents want air conditioning. Green roofs can replace this or make it more efficient. There are already many studies on this and we will address the topic as well. Participation in the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator allows us to do proof-of-concept in partnership with the City of Vienna.

Green roof scale model
Green roof scale model (C) Plantica – Sophie Kaltner

What are the biggest challenges you faced?

There are still some – from a structural engineering perspective, there are still some factors to be resolved. One factor is the different applicable standards for roof trusses, which is why we are trying to find a general approach to the feasibility of the project. But until that is found, each project still needs to be evaluated by an expert to determine if certain roof trusses can support the additional weight of a green roof.

Another issue is the increase in the cost of materials. Due to the epidemic, there was a shortage of materials and supplies. Since we started, prices have gone up three to four times. But our solution must remain economically viable.

What are you particularly proud of?

The first project we implemented and the tremendous positive feedback we received from the start. We went into every acceleration program and always received prompt responses to inquiries, both from the City of Vienna and from major construction companies. But other than that, we’re in a classic startup mode, one-day high and one-day low.

What are the conditions in your location?

The issue of green infrastructure in Vienna is very relevant and there are already strategic plans to combat heat islands. There is a lot of interest in our project here, unlike other cities that rarely give us any feedback on our applications.

What are the next steps?

We are now in the improvement phase and would like to head to the market over the next year. In the further development of our product, we want to become more environmentally friendly and innovative. That’s why we want to grow sustainably and put enough money into research and development. This is also the reason to be careful with providers of capital. Later, we plan to go to the countries of the South to set up sites there.

What makes your innovations better or different from things on the market?

Our innovation makes it possible to green the surfaces of metal panels and tiles. We also make it easy to use with our lightweight modular solution that allows surfaces to be greened after the fact.

Want to read more about startups? More installments of this series can be found here.

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