These days it seems there’s always another way to “go green” in your lifestyle. Tax incentives for homeowners to go green come and go, but even without monetary enticements, changing the way your home utilizes resources is beneficial to your overall overhead, your home’s function, and it’s great for the environment – an area in which we can all be more mindful. But what about enhancing the visual aesthetic of your home while also doing good for the planet? That’s a pretty sweet incentive, right? Allow us to introduce you to Green Roofs.
Green roofs (or living roofs) have been around for almost a century. Many European countries have implemented green roofs into residential homes and cottages dating as far back as the 1940s. The living roof has multiple benefits to the home or building owner.
What Do They Do? How Do They Work?
Green roofs are pretty much what they sound like they would be. Roofs on which a garden has been installed. Pretty neat. These living roofs can be made one of two ways – Intensive or Extensive. Deciding between the two comes down to a few factors; climate, structure, and desired maintenance.
Intensive roofs will be much more involved in the care and upkeep after installation. They also require a little more support from the building, more water, and the right kind of climate. Intensive roofs typically contain beautiful gardens, shrubs, small trees, and grasses that make them a little heavier load for the building to bear, as well as labor intensive.
Extensive roofs require a lot less work and water. If your roof isn’t easy to access or you live in a much drier climate, planting things like succulents and drought resistant plants and native grasses will be the better option for your green roof.
All green roofs, though, have their own irrigation system incorporated into their design. They’re built in such a way that your roof will be able to thrive on mostly rain water. For a desert climate area like New Mexico or Arizona, deep wells are included to allow for a storage of water that the plants can use during the seasons of drought. Depending on whether or not you’re able to easily access your roof will also factor in to which type of living roof you choose. With needier plants like rose bushes and trees, you’ll need to be able to get onto your roof with ease to make it worth your while.
But The Benefits
All right, here’s the really fun part about green roofs. They aren’t just something pretty to put on your house. Green roofs help manage and detox stormwater runoff (especially great for more commercial, concrete buildings). Because the rainwater is draining through healthy soil, the water that winds up back in circulation has less sediment and is naturally cleaner than something running off of shingles or plain concrete.
Living roofs are an excellent insulator for your home/building. They’re installed with their own special membrane that prevents any leaks, or damage to your home via roots. They help keep your house as warm or cool as you need it to be. While stark white roofs are meant to reflect heat, green roofs absorb the elements and naturally buffer your building’s temperature by way of its plant life.
Since green roofs are essentially raised gardens, they sequester much of the carbon in our air and improve air quality. Reducing greenhouse gases is paramount to the survival of the planet. Adding more agents to purify the air aids in that venture.
Piggybacking on that premise of creating more room for plants, you’re also improving the biodiversity of your community. With many homeowners and apartment complexes switching to artificial grass and turf, they’re inadvertently wiping out whole habitats for smaller lifeforms like worms, insects, and the ever necessary pollinating bees. Green roofs provide more places for these creatures to thrive, creating a healthier environment for the whole world. When choosing which plants to add to your living roof, consider first plants that are native to your area. They’ll have an easier time thriving and influence what nature had intended.
So Who Should Go Green Up Top?
An excellent question. If you’re building your home, consult with a certified green roof specialist and make sure your home is built for a green roof. There are weight/structural requirements since these roofs are heavier than your typical shingled roof. If your house has long since been built and lived in, checking with your local green roof company is your square one.
But the best place for green roofs are urban areas. Whether it’s an apartment/condo complex or a commercial building, installing green roofs will reap the most out of the benefits. Stormwater management, water and air quality, insulation, biodiversity – all these elements are so very needed in urban areas where there’s more concrete than there is natural life. Take the right safety precautions and open your green roof to the tenants of the building and now they not only get to enjoy the aforementioned benefits, but they also have a beautiful escape to nature when the pressures of city dwelling mount too high.
If you’re looking for a way to boost curb appeal and increase the function of your home while also saving the planet, take a deep dive into the realm of possibility of a green roof for your home or business.