Some people might say that green roofs are nothing more than fancy gardens simply located on top of homes and buildings… and those people would be entirely wrong.
Green roofs represent one of the most comprehensive and multi-layered solutions in modern green building technology: they combine amazing functionality with progressive environmentalism and beautiful aesthetics, adding fully organic, natural and durable building materials into the mix to produce impressive economic and health benefits in the long run.
Green roofs come in a variety of shapes, but one of their greatest qualities is that they can be customized to give homeowners just what they desire, both in terms of structure and attractive visual impression. Depending on the demands of those investing in green roofs – because they definitely are a rewarding investment – the approach to building them can differ slightly to accommodate for all the requirements. However, what remains constant is the benefits.
Higher longevity and cheaper maintenance
Green roofs boast several times longer life cycles than conventional bitumen solutions – they are much more durable, owing to their resilience to the harsh impact of nature’s elements, and generally require much less maintenance than one would expect.
There are two types: intensive and extensive, with the former being more costly, but much more advanced and grandiose, while the latter represents a great cost-effective solution for smaller homes and budgets, especially in terms of running costs. A well-built extensive green roof can easily last in excess of 50 years, with some types being designed to march on for a full century!
Thermal properties and energy efficiency
Whether it’s summer or winter, a healthy chunk of our electricity bill comes from trying to alter the temperature of our homes to meet desired levels. The multi-layered composite structure of a green roof can significantly reduce the power you consume for heating or cooling, thus providing your home with a breathing buffer between the merciless outdoors and the comfort of your living space.
By saving power, you’re directly reducing your home’s carbon footprint and helping your monthly budget. Moreover, you can install solar panels in your green roof, which enables additional positive effects on your wallet, environment and your local community.
If you live in the city, green roofs are likely the optimal solution for combating what is known as the “Urban heat island effect” – a condition where numerous concrete surfaces absorb and then radiate tremendous amounts of heat. Think of a green roof as your home’s parasol.
Overall environmental compliance
From the pure natural essence of building materials used in the building process, all the way to their active contribution to balancing local biospheres and ecosystems, green roofs employ the best practices of green building principles in a lasting effort to embody environmental sustainability.
They provide superior air quality by enhancing it with fresh oxygen, while simultaneously allowing you to create miniature eco-habitats for various plant life and even pets. Furthermore, green roofs are almost universally designed to help manage stormwater and transform it from a potential cumulative wet hazard to a source of nutrients for your green oasis.
Green roofs are meant to be green, but what about geographical areas which don’t really take kindly to fresh and lush green vegetation, like some parts of Australia? In order to rise to this challenge, green builders started innovating. The solution: use local substrates when creating your new fertile soil and plant local seed mixes. This ensures your future roof garden’s compatibility with its local environment and reflects nature’s own laws in any given area – if a particular shrub successfully grows a few yards from your home, it’s more than likely to repeat that success on your new roof. Also, getting plant life which is highly compatible with the climate will reduce your need for extra water to help it grow, which is both eco-friendly and economical.
Health and wellbeing
There’s not only a positive correlation, but also a direct causal relationship between happiness, creativity and productivity and one’s exposure to nature and fresh air. By opting for a green roof, you bestow your home with several important functions that can augment your long term health and immunity. Green roofs offer increased protection from noise, can be used as stress-relief environments and a great place for kids to spend some quality time – under supervision, of course.
Green roofs can easily be your personal playground, if you desire. You are able to employ various creative aesthetical solutions and ideas, explore designs and experiment with creativity in a host of shapes. There are plenty of colours you can choose from to give your home’s new roof that warm (or perhaps quirky) look and make it stand out from the crowd not only through its superior features, but also its eye-catching visuals.
Things to be mindful of
There are a few potential pitfalls to avoid when considering green roofs. Make sure your roof is adequately waterproofed, or you might be facing interior moisture, mould and water-related damage. If you’re planning on retrofitting your existing roof with a green one or putting some extra load up there, you might need to examine the roof base and invest in structural reinforcements, which does cost money.
Also, a roof’s slope impacts its quality – pitched roofs retain less stormwater and dry out faster, meaning your plants will require more supplemental watering, especially on the ridge lines. Sun exposure and plant position should be factored in – south-oriented sides get plenty of daylight. Make sure you get fast-growing, mature vegetation which will cover the roof quickly.
These things are best left to a professional, since any mistakes could potentially lead to both physical and financial harm. Consult a green builder and get your situation assessed. Also, be wary of unwelcome wildlife up there!
It’s more than evident that the innovative concept of green roofs holds a very special place in the doctrine of sustainable green building. The numerous benefits offered by these roofs represent a clear reflection of technological and ecological building merit, hard earned by the efforts of green roof builders. So, when you’re thinking about “greening up” your home, be sure to get it a majestic green crown. Boost your everyday living with tangible quality and strengthen your long term budget with a wisely chosen green roof.
Mackenzie Fox is an advocate of organic agriculture, and is in a constant search for eco-friendly ways of growing fruits and veggies. She is a passionate wine lover. If you don’t find her in a vineyard, she’s probably sipping some wine. Find her on Twitter here.