Last modified: 2020-02-21 | Approximate reading time 4 mins
As people begin to recognize the effects of their carbon footprint while living in urban environments, the idea of installing a green roof is becoming a popular choice. While having a green roof on your home is aesthetically pleasing, the benefits reach far beyond the visual. Green roofs, also known as living roofs, can be classified as those either completely or partially covered in vegetation over a typical waterproofing membrane.
These unique designs can be installed on top of almost any roofing structure to provide your loved ones, as well as your home, with many benefits. If you’re interested in this project and curious about what those benefits are, we’re here to tell you!
First, it’s important to mention that there are two distinct types of green roofs. There are intensive roofs, which are thicker and support a wide variety of plants at the expense of more required maintenance. Then there are extensive roofs, which are shallower than intensive roofs and require much less maintenance.
The green roof you choose to install will depend on the size of your roof as well as how much it’s able to hold. If your roof is made of a thin material, it is recommended that you choose the latter option of the two.
While the initial costs of installing a green roof may seem discouraging at first, the benefits will be noticed over time. Depending on the season, a green roof can be extremely resilient. During summer months, green roofs work to protect the building from direct solar heat whereas, during colder months, a green roof can help to minimize heat loss. This is due to the added insulation that the plants provide.
This addition translates into savings on your home’s energy bill. This is due to the vegetation acting as a cover for the roof’s waterproofing membrane. This means that the membrane is protected from UV rays and significant fluctuations in temperature. As a result, the lifespan of the membrane is at least double that of a conventional roof with an exposed waterproof membrane.
Installing a green roof can significantly reduce energy costs, and this should be appealing to homeowners who are environmentally-conscious. Further, by opening up your roof to the potential for a garden containing fruits, vegetables and edibles plants, yourself and your family can save costs on groceries as well as the time and energy. This is especially true for those living in urban areas with a constrained amount of green space.
The Urban Heat Island effect is seen in many metropolitan cities today; where an urban area tends to be significantly warmer than surrounding areas. This effect is mostly attributed to the development of land, meaning more solar radiation is absorbed by buildings.
However, green roofs offer a significant way to curb the Urban Heat Island effect as they reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than traditional materials.
Since many plants help to remove pollutants from the air, filtering many pollutants created by car exhaust, furnaces and other machinery that adds carbon dioxide into the air. A green roof can have a considerable impact on keeping the surrounding air clean. In fact, a green roof with the right plant diversity can act as a carbon sink which is a natural environment with the ability to absorb carbon dioxide.
Furthermore, if done on a large enough building or at a large enough scale, green roofs can significantly reduce the ambient surrounding temperatures in the summertime.
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A unique advantage of a green roof is that it can serve as a natural habitat to encourage biodiversity. This means that the roof can provide a favourable environment that certain plants and animal species will thrive in. Green roofs can have a very positive effect for birds whose habitat has been affected by consistent urban development, especially those which struggle to survive at the ground level.
Especially true of global warming and our changing environmental landscape, the more diverse the ecosystem, the better chances all plants, animals and natural life have of surviving.
A green roof is an excellent option if you live in an excessively wet climate. This is because it can help to catch and reduce rainwater runoff. Rainwater runoff is bad for the foundation of homes, as too much runoff can seep into the ground and cause erosion. Not only this, too much runoff can kill the surrounding vegetation.
Since green roofs are covered in plants, the present leaves, roots and soil allow water to be returned to the atmosphere as it evaporates rather than falling to the ground around your home.
source- Flickr Ryan Somma
Due to the nature of the way a green roof needs to be built as well as the waterproofing methods involved, they have an increased level of durability that normal roofs do not. This means that your roof will not need to be replaced as frequently, and can help save money in the long run. Not only this but avoiding replacing roofing materials means less waste and thus another form of being environmentally conscious.
Overall, green roofs can add many impressive facets to your home from purely aesthetic to positively impacting the surrounding environment. While the cost may at first seem daunting, the list of benefits over time tends to outweigh the expense at the outset.
Whether you seek a fully transformed intensive roof or a relatively maintenance free extensive roof, both options are great alternatives when trying to reduce you and your home’s carbon footprint. It’s important to note that each green roof installation is unique to the structure, so technical performance will depend on a range of factors including the region's climate and the design type you have chosen.
Cover Photo: Flickr-Arlington County
Author: David Ben-Zaken
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