By Larraine Roulston:
Although insulating homes by incorporating grass roofs is not new, modern green rooftop architecture has come a long way in a relatively short time. By replacing the familiar flat black tar and asphalt roof coverings that absorb the sun’s rays with canopies of greenery abounding with biodiversity, this wonderful trend has enormous benefits. Described as a “landscape wave,” an accessible green rooftop offers citizens an area of recreation and relaxation — a healthy “re-leaf” for city dwellers.
With beautiful architectural features, green roofs are suitable for large industrial buildings as well as for residential homes and garages. Green roofs located in dense urban areas improve the efficiency and appearance of buildings. On a school roof, the biology, technology and environmental benefits provide amazing educational opportunities, not only for students and teachers but also for the entire school community of parents and visitors. By attracting birds, butterflies and other pollinating insects, the gardens provide added joy to children as well as a supply of healthy food. Hospital patients benefit greatly from a roof garden’s serenity. Its location also allows a safe space for growing flowers and herbs. It has been well documented that the benefits of living architecture adds to the well-being of those in care centers, hospices and similar institutional buildings. Green rooftop architecture covering a large mall allows each restaurant owner a space to grow fresh vegetables and herbs such as organic lettuces, chives, and basil. The same luxury of growing food also applies to hotel chefs and residents of high-rise buildings.
During the hot summer, office workers will appreciate the lush green setting to provide cooler air through shading, to remove heat from the air, as well as to help muffle city noise. Besides improving the real estate value in a downtown core, the greenery offers a pleasing landscape that will improve the general wellness of employees, which in turn increases productivity. As an insulator, a green roof will save corporations money. The payback from the initial cost for a large industrial building will be realized in just a few years.
There are municipal savings, too. Storm water infrastructures are under great pressure during flash floods. Green rooftops act as sponges by absorbing rainwater, which slows down water deflection, and helps to filter and improve the quality of storm water run-off. Another great advantage is the role they play in reducing the distribution of particulate matter throughout the city.
A green rooftop can be used for urban gardening — an agriculture project that will allow local residents to lessen their carbon footprint by creating a local food source. In 2010, a Toronto downtown restaurant was designed and operated by landscape architect Victoria Taylor and chef/permaculturalist Katie Mathieu as a for-profit farm. You can view a slide show of different planters and vegetables on their website.
As an added benefit, green rooftop architecture offers the opportunity for job creation. This innovation requires project management skills, artistic designing and local landscaping. Opportunities abound for nursery personnel, gardeners and photographers, as well as for teachers to educate those new to the concept.
With its aesthetic value, green rooftop architecture brings a multitude of economical, environmental and social benefits.
Larraine authors the Pee Wee at Castle Compost book series, www.castlecompost.com