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a primer on green roofs: part one

January 25, 2008

zora naki

Cob House Green Roof, Stanley Park, Vancouver BC - (C) BCITa few years ago, we had to replace our roof. at the time, i was seriously keen on the idea of replacing our 30-year-old asphalt shingles with a living, growing green roof. imagine the wildflowers waving in the wind! after doing some research, i did some calling, only to hit a bit of a dead end. the only green roofs that people knew about were on commercial installations, there were no guarantees for roof lifespan or feasibility, and the anticipated cost was more than double that of a standard roof.

we caved and went the traditional route. however, things are changing quite rapidly in this area of construction with more and higher-profile projects in the works all the time. In Europe, green roofs are popular and far more commonplace than in North America. However, municipal facilities and large corporate installations are helping to change this (city halls, convention centres, the Gap headquarters).

in the hopes that it helps someone else out, here is a basic introduction for those of you interested in growing a garden on your roof.

Benefits of Green Roofs:

  1. Reduce stormwater runoff into the sewer system (plants absorb water that hits your roof)
  2. Reduce energy consumption: the thicker layer of potting soil and plants acts as another layer of insulation for your house, keeping things cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter
  3. Reduce the heat island effect that occurs in urban areas
  4. Reduces air pollution and CO2 while producing oxygen
  5. Provides habitat for butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects; provides habitat for birds
  6. Has smaller ecological footprint, using biodegradable, self-renewing materials

For more information about the benefits of green roofs and how they mitigate environmental issues, please see the following:

A Greener Chicago (University of Michigan)

Next: types of green roofs.


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