I now have a cute, little sedum-bedecked green roof on a new, flat-topped shed in my backyard. And my goodness, for such a teensy project, did we ever have to do a lot of research and development.
For us, the idea of a green roof, however small, was exciting. But we didn’t want water leaking through the roof, or roots growing into the ceiling, or a building that collapsed under the weight of damp soil and plants. So the idea, so casually agreed upon in the beginning, ended up being a lot more work than we had imagined.
The big problem was that there just wasn’t a lot of information available at the time. But that’s changing. Many cities, for instance, have recently come up with green roof standards as part of a set of regulations aimed at increasing the amount of green space in the city.
A green roof, for those who don’t know, is just as it sounds — plants growing on a flat-topped roof. It can be elaborate, such as it might be on a condo rooftop, with planter boxes, walking paths, bushes and small trees, with built-in irrigation. Or it can be simple, and may consist of hardy, low-growing plants without access, like that on a porch overhang or other flat-roofed sections of a house or shed.
The biggest benefit of a green roof for a large city is that it increases the space that can absorb rainwater, reducing the amount of water that runs quickly off vast areas of impermeable surfacing and pours into sewers, overwhelming water treatment plants. Other direct benefits for home owners and urban dwellers are reduced energy costs, longer-lasting roofs, better soundproofing, visual appeal, increased habitat for birds and butterflies, increased property value, and reduced urban heat island effect.
– Sylvia Putz is a journalist with an interest in decor and design. She’s written for the TV show Arresting Design; email@example.com.