The Living Roof
Homeowners know the importance of landscaping their yards—and now, many are realizing the extra value that plant life brings to their home’s roof. Creating a green roof is an investment that adds a little green to your wallet and longevity to the life of your roof. Helping to insulate the home, improve air quality, and prevent storm runoff, a lush roof adds visual interest as well.
A green roof requires several layers to support vegetation. You'll need a waterproofing membrane to protect the roof, and depending on the slope, likely a root barrier and irrigation system as well. Green roofs are categorized as either extensive (less maintenance) or intensive (higher maintenance), depending on the variety and quantity of plants used.
Flat or Sloped
Does the area you are considering receive plenty of sunlight? Plants require sufficient sun to thrive. While some plant life needs less sun than others, carefully consider the location and type of plant life your roof can support before diving in.
Before building a green roof, hire a certified structural engineer to determine whether your roof will support the system and plants. If it will, you’re in luck. The plant life living on your roof will protect it from UV rays and other natural elements that lead to its deterioration and help extend its life.
Carefully choose what plants to grow on your green roof. Do you want to attract wildlife such as birds and bees? What plants native to your area will thrive on your roof? If you live in a dry area, choose plants that don’t easily parch because the primary source of water for your roof will be rain. Sedum, talinum, and delosperma are good candidates for roof living.
A growing number of companies specialize in green roofs. New York Green Roofs has a variety of residential and commercial projects under its belt. Here, workers install a support system necessary for more severely sloped roofs. Make sure you work with a certified structural engineer or professional to ensure proper installation.
A Brooklyn architect looked no further than his own home when designing this rooftop oasis. Eight inches of soil on the roof absorb rainwater runoff that would normally end up in the city streets. Rainwater absorption by roofs helps prevent pollutants from contaminating the water supply and flooding near the home.
With a flat green roofline, this home nearly blends into the landscape when viewed from a distance. A green roof should support up to roughly 20 pounds of weight per square foot. When estimating that weight, consider not only the plants and soil, but also the water the roof will retain after a storm, which can further strain the structure.
Eco-architect Mickey Muennig built this home into the landscape and let the yard merge with the roof. A green roof pioneer, he has been honing his craft for more than 30 years. With its broad covering, the greenery on the home’s façade makes it comparatively fireproof, an appreciated bonus for a California resident.
Natural-looking gardens inspired Starchitect Bjarke Ingels to design the Hill House seen here. Sedum, the drought tolerant plants grown here, are ideal for a roof. Incorporating the sloping sidewalls into the design allows the home’s roof to become fully interactive and provides extra insulation in both summer and winter.
When the homeowners asked to include as many green elements as possible in their home's renovation, architect Robert Maschke incorporated a green roof into the construction of a master bedroom addition. Many green roofs, like this one, have low maintenance costs and also lower heating and cooling bills over time, making the upfront expense a sound investment.
If you are interested in more roof and green home design ideas, consider:
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