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Why Green Roofs are Popping Up Everywhere (and How You Can Have One, Too)

October 1, 2021

Chances are the last time you visited your childhood town, or if you still live there, it does not look like it did when you were growing up. Most likely there are more houses, businesses, and concrete, and fewer trees and vegetation.

Sadly, your hometown is not the only place where this is happening. With over 7.6 billion people in this world, developers are knocking down trees to make room for people to purchase homes. Those people have to make a living, buy their necessities, and go on vacation, so they are making buildings, too.

It’s the way of the world and sometimes, like when we feel nostalgic over the changes in our childhood towns, we can feel powerless to stop it. But that does not have to be the case.

More and more people are taking small steps to help make the world a bit more sustainable each day. One way that many individuals are choosing to do their part is by investing in a green roof.

Green roofs are also called “rooftop gardens” or “living roofs,” but they are simply a rooftop that has a layer of vegetation growing on it. How much vegetation is up to the owner and how much work they want to put into the maintenance of their rooftop garden.

Plants have been used in buildings for millennia due to their practical benefits. More recently, they have been used in homes as natural sources of fresh air and allergen reducers. But when they are used as roofs as part of sustainable living, the benefits are seemingly endless.

Just why are so many people adding green roofs to their homes? Read on to find out the amazing long-term effects of these living roofs.


Energy Benefits of Green Roofs

While most roofs attract heat, requiring more energy to cool a home, green roofs help to reduce energy costs by absorbing it instead. This acts as a natural layer of insulation to a building, keeping it cool when it is warm outside and warm during cold temperatures. In fact, even a small green roof can help reduce your energy demands by more than 75 percent.

While the obvious cost-saving factors jump out as a benefit, it goes beyond that. Reducing energy use actually decreases the production of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that go along with manmade energy production that uses non-renewable resources like oil.

If you go into any large urban city, you are probably going to see green roofs on many homes and buildings. It’s not because they want an area for their pets to be able to play, although this is definitely a side benefit.

Instead, those homeowners are doing their part to reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect. This is an actual condition where urban environments absorb heat and trap it there because of all of the concrete and high, close buildings.

When you have a lot of concrete and minimal vegetation, your energy costs skyrocket because of all of the excess heat naturally generated. Add millions of people into a small radius and that energy use is exponentially increased.

The solution to much of that problem is found in the implementation and maintenance of green roofs.


Ecological Benefits of Green Roofs

Obviously, the aesthetics are a given. When you want to make your home stand out and showcase your creativity, a green roof hits a home run in that department. But digging a bit beyond the beauty of these unique living roofs, it is easy to see that they make an important impact on the ecosystem.

Depending on the type of green roof that is designed and created, the vegetation can remove air particulates and produce oxygen for the environment. It can also provide shade and protection from extreme heat. Because of this natural weathering system, green roofs can last much longer than a traditional roof.

They do an enormous part to act as a natural flood deterrent, too. In areas where irrigation is spotty or heavy rains occur frequently, stormwater runoff can cause severe water damage and accidents. Green roofs naturally slow and reduce stormwater runoff and act as an irrigation system themselves.

This is especially handy in urban areas like Salt Lake City, Utah, where there are a lot of nonporous surfaces that generate excess runoff in rain and melting snow. Pavement and concrete are designed to create shells that rainwater quickly runs off. This is normally safe for drivers, but when too much rain happens quicker than it can be absorbed into the ground, flooding occurs.

Strategically designed green roofs can lower the risk of flash floods, long-term standing water, and backed up sewage.

Green roofs also have been proven to improve air quality by naturally reducing temperatures and capturing air pollutants. This includes ozone and particulate matter. Overall, this means that these types of roofs improve public health in their immediate vicinity and beyond.

They also provide habitats for animals and insects in areas where urban development has destroyed homes and decimated animal populations.


Cost-Saving Benefits of Green Roofs

Although a green roof tends to cost more than a regular roof up front, the long-term benefits will save you more than you would ever see with a traditional roof. While the exact amount of savings will vary depending on which state you live in, the price of utility costs in your area, and the type of roof you invest in, the savings will definitely add up.

Since living roofs have a natural layer of protection that defends your waterproof layer of material from normal wear and tear and weathering, these roofs can last up to twice as long as other roofs. Considering the cost of a new roof can last on average twenty years and range from $10,000 to $20,000, that is a huge savings over the life of your home.

Green roofs also reduce heat that comes and goes through your roof by absorbing it into the vegetation that needs it to thrive. The outer surface of the building gets shrouded in shading naturally. During the summer, the green roof is a layer of protection from the direct heat of the sun.

Studies have shown that a green roof can reduce your demand for air conditioning in the summer by up to 75%. Just the basic insulation that green roofs provide saves energy, which saves you on your electricity bill.

In areas that have difficulty with runoff water, green roofs also save homeowners money in their plumbing systems. The natural irrigation that a green roof provides takes away the need for complex drainage systems that can be very expensive.

The reduced stormwater runoff can also reduce the stress on sewage systems and help avoid burst pipes and overflow that results in high-cost, high-stress water damage.

Even though a green roof requires regular maintenance to keep the vegetation healthy, this is still a nominal cost compared to the upkeep of a traditional roof. Regular roofs require annual preventative maintenance to watch for signs of trouble before they become major problems. With a green roof, this maintenance is performed simultaneously with routine maintenance.


Types of Green Roofs

When you decide that you want to go the less traditional route and embrace the beauty of a green roof, you will need to determine which kind you prefer. The two most commonly found are called extensive and intensive roofs.

An extensive green roof system has basic vegetation consisting usually of herbs, small grasses, and flowering plants that require very little upkeep.

The basics of an extensive green roof are that their soil depth is usually minimal, at 3-6 inches and very lightweight, about 15-50 pounds per square foot. There is only 10-20% organic matter in the soil. You do have limited plant species options, but there is less maintenance required and the plants tend to thrive without detailed nutritional or irrigation needs.

An intensive green roof, on the other hand, uses vegetation that requires depth, like trees and other dramatic plants. Intensive green roofs allow you to have a lot of creativity and a vast degree of choices, but they require a lot of maintenance as well.

These types of roofs usually have a soil depth of greater than 6 inches and cause a heavier weight load on the roof of up to 150 pounds per square foot. This sometimes creates the need for load-bearing shifts in your home’s structure. You do get many more choices of plants, but they will likely require more irrigation, fertilization, and nutritional needs.


How to Get Your Green Roof Started Today

If the seeds of a green roof are now firmly planted in your mind and you are ready to get yours started, call the professionals at Patriot Roofing & Construction. Our experts will work with you to teach you how to design your roof to cost-effectively save you money and help you do your part to improve the ecosystem for the life of your green roof.