Every home, apartment and garden shed has a roof, and over time it has become an increasingly practical idea to make use of the vast roof space available for a variety of purposes. Whether for improving energy efficiency in homes and buildings, to sequestering carbon, or even for growing vegetables and eatables – the idea is not only incredibly attractive, but immensely practical on a variety of levels. Building a green roof can be as easy as using planters on an existing flat roof, to more complex systems and the installation of complete green roof system that can add great benefit to a building, or to a home. Green roofs supplement more traditional growing methods and do not disrupt urban environments; in fact, they make us of a normally unused and neglected space, and transform it into something much more useful and attractive.
This article outlines some of the techniques and requirements of creating a green roof, in a variety of formats and concepts – either a rooftop garden, or a full green roof, which is sometimes also referred to as a living roof.
Benefits of a Green Roof
A roof that supports living vegetation has numerous benefits on both a small, and large scale. These are a few of the benefits:
- When done correctly, a green roof can add substantial amount of time to the life of a conventional roof
- They add insulation value, and can reduce the cost of energy
- They make an amazing green space to relax and enjoy
- They can reduce water drainage and maintenance issues that are typical, as they absorb or make use of rainfall – as a result they can reduce the cost of building and/or reparing complex drainage systems
Green Roof – Principles
A green roof is not overly complicated, and basically involves ensuring the proper layers are in place to accommodate drainage and absorption – this ensures the home, or building, is well protected. Building these layers correctly ensures the weight of the garden can be properly supported, and you can enjoy your green roof garden for many years.
Common terminology defines a roof garden as either “Intensive”, or “Extensive”. The difference between these two are very simple – an Intensive green roof refers to what
many call a “rooftop garden”, which is filled with raised garden beds, planted pots, patio bricks and/or walking areas and so forth. An intensive green roof does however, normally require a more comprehensive supporting structure, as they use heavier components, use thicker layers of soil, and generally include irrigation or other supporting tools and mechanics.
In contrast an Extensive green roof is normally the type that is left to grow wild, does not require maintenance, and provides great energy saving benefits, but are not used for recreational purposes, or as rooftop gardens. If your goal is to create such a living green roof, it is important that you consult with an engineer, to ensure your load and weight requirements can be met by your structure. Additionally, as such a roof requires multiple layers of materials, be sure to speak with a qualified specialist to ensure your materials meet the necessary requirements for drainage and nutrient balance. There are far too many situations where such a project has had to be replaced or ‘re-done’, as the materials used were inadequate or incorrect. They are an absolutely amazing solution, and highly recommended, and let us know your experiences if you’ve undertaken such a project. One other great option to consider, though a much more comprehensive project, would be the incredible homes from Compass Green, which we have covered at length in a previous article.
Patio Green Roof
What most people enjoy most about a the idea of a green roof, is being able to enjoy the greenery and garden atmosphere in an urban environment. With this in mind, we’ve compiled some great ideas and tips to make your green roof the most appealing and enjoyable as possible.
-Don’t be afraid to use potted plants for great effect, and you can move them around as
-Make sure you use plants that also have height and body, go with tall plants in some places for a great effect
-Dont just use pots, but create plant boxes and raised planting beds for to create both depth and additional flair
-If you are comfortable with the idea, and you have enough space, consider keeping a small bee colony on your roof. This will assist in pollination, and is not nearly as complicated as many people believe
-Ensure you consider adding a Pergola, and include climbing plants to make a truly
remarkable green roof space
-Add a water feature as a central point in the garden, such as a fountain. It will add a focal point to your garden, and the sound of flowing water is such a great addition to a garden
-Use Light to Highlight and Accentuate – for daytime, use shades, umbrellas and other tools to create varied light and shadow. In the evening and night, use lights inside your planted
environment, to really make your green roof ‘pop’ out!
-Keep things Simple, and don’t overdo it. The best gardens are the simplest ones.
-Use unique stones for walkways, and try to include interesting flooring in the area
-Use a variety of different plants, styles, colours and textures
-Include both whispy plants as well as broad leaf plants for contrast and beauty
Most importantly, is to be brave – to try new things, and enjoy the experience of contrasting different styles and textures. A garden is a dynamic environment, and you are sure to enjoy many hours of time sitting and making the most of your hard work and imagination.
The final point which many should consider, is the use of your green roof as a food source. Having planters and pots growing herbs, vegetables and eatables is a great opportunity to make use of your roof space to additional benefit. It is possible to grow nearly anything you can think of, and the only limits are your imagination, and well, the climate that you live in. We think this is one of the greatest benefits of a green roof, and in urban environments, it is a great method of creating your own organic produce, along with the immense satisfaction of cultivating your own goods!
Some very innovative ideas here, and the costs of creating a green roof are relatively low. There is, of course, substantial costs in creating the more comprehensive ‘Extensive’ style of green roof. That said, the long term savings in terms of energy costs, thermal insulation and others, may certainly mitigate these costs over time. If you have the space, and you are looking for a great urban solution, the green roof garden is a brilliant opportunity to grow your own produce, and have a beautiful green space to enjoy any time of year! If you like this idea, check out some of our other great garden & planting ideas.
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