Why Green Roofs are Taking Home Design by Storm

From on February 17, 2011 in Green Remodeling

green roof insulationPlanted to insulate homes and cut energy bills, green roofs are sprouting up all over the world

When I moved to Salt Lake City, I was pleased to see environmental efforts popping up in surprising places, such as the roof of the downtown public library, pictured below. Atop a beautifully modern building with various green elements, the roof offers seating and a plethora of natural elements, including trees.

And Salt Lake isn’t the only place to see a wave of innovative eco roofing. From major urban centers to private homes secluded in nature, green roofs are popular for all kinds of reasons.

What exactly can they offer? In big cities, green roofs cool air temperatures and reduce the “heat island” effect. On residential homes, they provide insulation, absorb rainwater, and can even serve as a rooftop garden.

wild grass green roof

Here, a rustic mountain home in Argentina features a wild grass green roof with flowers.

green roof garden

“Intensive” green roofs take a bolder approach. And the effect is nothing short of amazing—just look at this lush green roof home belonging to gardener Felder Rushing in Mississippi.

sloped green roof

Of course, green roofs are not a new concept. For centuries, Europe has covered their roofs with some type of nature. And, while we want to be living in the 21st-century, thank you very much, we can take notes on how to implement the concept into modern-day design.

modern green roof

And it doesn’t get any more modern than this. Ian McDonald’s Meadow House in Toronto is a testament to our creative ability to blend dwellings seamlessly into the environment. In fact, with the green roof tucking this house into the hillside, the only indication that it’s there at all are the giant periscope windows that flood light into the home.

flat green roofA sod-topped roof on a midcentury home in Montana, by architect Richard Neutra.

While green roofs are typically installed on flat roofs like the one above, the idea can be adapted for sloped roofs, too. And though a green roof can be “intensive” (about 12 inches thick), a less expensive option is to install an “extensive” roof—one that offers about 3 inches of more limited and suitable plants.

And the good news is that they are easy to maintain. Talk to an architect or contractor about how to convert your own roof. You’ll be glad you did.

Photos: Freshome, Landscape Urbanism