Green Roofs

Using your roof for gardening, known as “greening” your roof, is a very inventive way to make use of urban space. You can grow a few plants on your roof in containers, or even consider a full greening of your roof with a variety of plants and turf. Using your roof as a green space will not only make your house more beautiful, it will also help you save energy. Having a tree or a shrub in a container, a small area of veggies, or a plot of turf can make a huge difference in the amount of solar heat absorbed by your home.

A rooftop can reach temperatures as high as 140 degree F, but a layer of turf often stays below 77 degrees. Thus, greening your roof can reduce the amount of energy you use for air-conditioning. The plants on your roof will also make use of rainwater, and if you plant turf, the grass may significantly reduce runoff.

The “grass roof” is a well-known rural European tradition that is slowly making its way to cities around the world. In some rural areas in Europe, you can observe roofs that have turf built right into the structure of the house. Now many urbanites are trying these ideas out for themselves. This website details an ecological urban house design in England that uses a grass roof.

Green roofing is becoming more popular than you might imagine. By some reports, Germans planted more than 108 million square feet of green roofs in recent years. A recent environmental study in Chicago also stated that if enough people greened their roofs, the cumulative effect would help reduce the ambient temperature of the entire city!

A fully green roof with abundant landscaping requires a bit of investment and additional technology to deal with issues such as drainage, possible water damage and the added weight of the landscaping. Even if you plan on placing just a few containers on your roof, you should think about the extra time you’ll be spending on your roof walking around, watering, and performing maintenance. You may already have a sturdy roof that will easily hold the extra weight. However, talking to a professional architect can help you deal with these issues.

This website has more information on how you can green your own roof, as well as descriptions of large-scale projects helping to green urban rooftops of public buildings in the cities of Chicago and Toronto.

Want to learn more about Green Roofs?

This article profiles Michael Repkin of  Urban Habitat Chicago  who has set up a mini farm on a rooftop above a health food store in a Chicago suburb. Repkin has had a surprising amount of success growing vegetables in a small area, including full sized Russet potatoes in only 3 inches of media.  has a large variety of resources for green roof owners. It features a greenroof project of the week, as well as a comprehensive list of articles on the subject. There are also discussion forums, video, a marketplace and research links. The most popular section of the website is Greenroofs 101  a beginning guide with everything you need to know to set up your own greenroof.

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities  is a not for profit organization promoting the North American green roof industry. The website features a green roof education and accreditation program and a greensave calculator to compare the cost of green roofing versus conventional roofing systems.

Green Roofs Australia  is an Australian site with a variety of resources for those interested in green roofing. It includes a detailed explanation of green roofs and their importance in helping to preserve the environment and fight against climate change.

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