Sustainability and planet-conscious designs are a growing consideration for commercial and residential construction alike. One way to incorporate sustainable practices into a new build or renovation project is to install a green roof.
A green roof is an eco-friendly roofing option that incorporates vegetation and plants to create a living layer of protection on top of a building. It can look like a traditional garden featuring herbs, fruits, and vegetables or it could simply be a bed of grass or moss. This type of roofing offers an environmentally friendly, energy-efficient alternative to traditional materials. There are several benefits to choosing a green roof. Let’s explore what advantages they can provide.
Pollution and poor air quality are issues we must confront as we continue to address climate change. Green roofs have the ability to remove a portion of dust, soot, and other pollutants from the air. Think of plants as nature’s air filter. They take in carbon dioxide and convert it into the oxygen other living organisms (us) need to survive. Green roofs can be especially useful in urban areas with smog and pollution issues.
Did you know urban cities can get up to 5 degrees hotter than their neighboring countryside communities? This is due to a phenomenon called the urban heat island effect. Typical, traditional roofing material can get up to a whopping 150 degrees in the summertime. When you cram a ton of buildings next to roads and other infrastructure this can create a heat absorption super machine that continually re-emits the sun's heat. Green roofs can help mitigate this effect.
Plants can efficiently absorb about 50% of the sun’s heat and reflect 30%. Green roofs not only help create a cooler environment around a building but also inside it. This insulating effect can reduce your cooling needs and save you money on your energy bill.
Solar panels are more efficient in cooler temperatures. That’s because they draw energy from the sun’s light, not its heat. When sunlight photon particles hit a solar panel’s photovoltaic cells, it sends the electrons into motion. Since electrons are at low energy in colder temperatures, the high energy of the sunlight will cause a greater difference in voltage which will lead to more energy creation. Since green roofs are notably cooler than traditional roofing, they offer a more optimal environment for solar panels.
Too much rainwater can lead to issues in some areas. There’s a peak level of water that can be held as groundwater or whisked away by the sewage system. If this level is exceeded, your risk of experiencing a flood increases. Green roofs help create an extra rainwater buffer, absorbing water within its plants, substrate, and drainage layer. As the plant uses up the water, it purifies the water before it evaporates back into the atmosphere.
Green roofs can support their own miniature habitats for birds, butterflies, and other insects. City living isn’t commonly associated with nature. But even though it seems like the concrete jungle could never support biodiversity, green roofs may be the key to living in greater harmony with the natural world. Urban ecology and urban wildlife programs are a growing movement aimed at providing more places for creatures to mate, seek shelter, and travel through cities. Opting for a green roof is one way to contribute to this mission.
The plants used to create green roofing acts as a bonus layer of protection for your roof. They protect the waterproof membrane on top of your roof from excessive moisture, UV rays, wind, and temperature fluctuations. Green roofing can actually last up to 60 years or even longer if well maintained. That alone will save you money down the line and assure the interior of your building is well protected for years to come.
Some green roofs can use herbs, vegetables, and fruit plants as part of their landscaping. This is a great way to introduce more local, urban agriculture to our cities. The possibility of rooftop gardens is especially compelling for restaurants and other types of food businesses. Green roofing offers a way for these establishments to switch to a carbon-neutral “farm-to-table” approach rather than depending on refrigerated freight trucks or planes to provide their produce.
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