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Green Building with Living Rooftops
March 22, 2016
What are living rooftops and how are they used in green building efforts? Keep reading to learn more about these attractive and eco-friendly rooftops.
Simply put, a living roof is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than the more conventional shingles and tar, a living roof is surfaced with vibrant vegetation. Plants sprout from a thin layer of soil or a lightweight growing medium covering the rooftop. Multicolored foliage, decadent herbs, hardy grasses, even tiny trees thrive in a living garden. Systems are implemented to provide irrigation and drainage, while a watertight membrane protects the structure against damage from moisture, fungus and bacteria. Few sustainable construction practices yield a wider range of environmental, financial and esthetic benefits, so it makes sense to include a living roof in your green building plans.
Benefits of Green Building with Living Rooftops
Living roofs make a profound environmental impact, particularly in urban centers and industrial areas. Rooftops blanketed in grass or shrubs retain rainwater at a much higher rate than their traditional counterparts, allowing clean water to return naturally to the atmosphere through transpiration and evaporation. This also reduces the strain on sewer systems during heavy downpours. In addition, any water that does happen to run off is filtered by the rooftop vegetation, keeping harmful elements out of our water table. When it comes to sustainable construction principles, nothing improves the flow of a green building project quite like a living roof.
Air quality and temperature are also positively influenced by living roofs. Just as rooftop vegetation provides a natural filtration system for stormwater and runoff, it simultaneously helps purify the air by capturing potentially hazardous particulate matter. It may come as a surprise, but you can even influence the temperature in an urban area through your green building choices. An incredible amount of heat is produced when the sun beats down on a dark, solid surface like a black rooftop or paved parking lot. When a number of these surfaces are giving off such extreme heat in relative proximity to one another, the resulting spike in air temperature is known as the urban heat island effect. Plants, of course, thrive on sunlight. They absorb the light without converting it to heat energy, helping reverse the warming trend.
As bustling urban centers and metropolitan areas expand, native wildlife is often displaced from its natural environment. All too often, green space is replaced with asphalt, sending friendly critters in search of more hospitable surroundings. When you incorporate a living roof into the sustainable architecture of your green building, however, you are also creating a sanctuary for insects, birds, butterflies and other neighbors from nature.
In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, green building can lead to some serious savings. A conventional roof must be replaced every 20 to 30 years, a significant expense. A living roof, on the other hand, typically lasts up to 60 years. Vegetation also serves as natural insulation, shrinking your heating and cooling bills considerably. You can also net up to 15 credits toward LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and environmental Design) by including a living garden in your sustainable construction project.
Even as green building conserves energy, it helps create it among the residents of a city. Living roofs can transform an already vibrant downtown area into a lush oasis of activity, boosting civic pride and morale. Hummingbirds flitting through budding flowers and verdant greenery present an appealing alternative to dusty gravel and hot tar. Help give your city an eco-friendly makeover through sustainable construction.