Green Roofs: Greenery for the City-Dweller

Originally posted 2011-09-30 09:00:11.

For this week’s Guest Post Friday here at Musings, we welcome James Kim.  James writes for Austin Real Estate service HomeCity combines powerful online Austin MLS search technology and other online tools with personalized real estate services to provide clients with the knowledge they need to make the right buying and selling decisions.

From Austin Real Estate to New York City, everyone seems to be raving about a new trend in horticulture: rooftop gardening. These gardens are adding life and color to dim cities and dark roofs. So how can you adopt this trend in your home? Here are some different options for creative gardening.

Why should I invest in a rooftop garden?

Rooftop gardens can:

  • Improve air quality
  • Insulate buildings
  • Support/create local food (which is healthier and fresher)
  • Delay water runoff
  • Reduce heat-absorbing surfaces, thereby making area cooler
  • Bring color to a dull roof!

How is a green roof built?

While there are plenty of different types of roof gardens, they are built in basically the same manner. There are several layers needed to sustain a rooftop garden:

  • Waterproof layer – This base layer is added straight to the roof to ensure that the water from the garden will not leak onto the roof.
  • Roof membrane – A pond/butyl lining is to be laid over the waterproof layer in a continuous sheet, whenever possible. If this is not possible, overlap the sheets by 20 cm.
  • Filter Sheet – This sheet allows moisture to drain off the roof.
  • Moisture blanket – This layer ensures that the growing medium retains enough moisture for plant-life. It is possible to use an old blanket or cardboard as your moisture blanket.

Then comes the last layer. . .

  • Soils, seeds, and plants – A growing medium should be nice and light. Plant your seeds and voila! Watch your rooftop garden blossom before your eyes.

If the idea of building your own roof garden scares you a bit, there are plenty of professionals out there who now specialize in roof garden installation. Additionally, you don’t have to entirely cover your roof in a garden. There are plenty of “container gardens,” which are easy to install and cost efficient.

What type of plants grow on roofs?

The type of plants for your green roof depends on your taste, climate, and type of roof garden. For and area with large amounts of sunlight, you may opt for hearty shrubs and bushes, fruit trees, junipers, and grasses, which can all withstand strong winds. If you’re roof is a bit sheltered, you should stay away from tall-stemmed, top heavy flowers like lilies or peonies. Alpine and low water plants, like moss, ferns, sedum and sempervivum thrive in rooftop conditions.

Whether you live in suburbia or a cosmopolitan area, a rooftop garden will bring life to this underutilized space. Make your life a little greener by building a green roof!

James and I welcome your comments below.  Also, please subscribe to keep up with this and other Guest Post Friday Musings.

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2 Responses to Green Roofs: Greenery for the City-Dweller
  1. Alex
    April 22, 2012 | 10:00 PM

    I have always found my roof a little dull and wondered what I can do to make it look better. I would love to do this myself, but definitely feel safer if someone could point me in the direction of a more detailed guide!

  2. Alastair
    February 22, 2013 | 10:57 AM

    We found some great images of green roofs from all over the world. Some of the ones from the country look amazing but my favourites are when you see greenery brought into the city. Those splashes of green amongst dull grey concrete, just say so much about what green roofs can add to city life.
    Alastair recently posted..Amazing Green Roof ImagesMy Profile

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About Musings

I am a construction lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, a LEED AP, and have been nominated by my peers to Virginia's Legal Elite in Construction Law on multiple occasions. I provide advice and assistance with mechanic's liens, contract review and consulting, occupational safety issues (VOSH and OSHA), and risk management for construction professionals.

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