How To: Green Your Roof

written by:
December 2, 2013
No matter the month, it's never too cold or too early to start planning for major eco-impact. From urban rooftop gardens to living surfaces that help homeowners save on energy costs, here you'll find plenty of ideas for the final (green) frontier: the green roof.
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  Trading Shingles for Shrubs (Everyone's Doing It!)It wasn’t long ago that the idea of planting a rooftop garden was dismissed as expensive, impractical, and even silly. Now, more than a generation after European pioneers began making so-called green roofs fixtures of the German and Scandinavian landscapes, North Americans are tuning into the benefits of going green.

    Trading Shingles for Shrubs (Everyone's Doing It!)

    It wasn’t long ago that the idea of planting a rooftop garden was dismissed as expensive, impractical, and even silly. Now, more than a generation after European pioneers began making so-called green roofs fixtures of the German and Scandinavian landscapes, North Americans are tuning into the benefits of going green.

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  Make an architectural statement: In southwest Poland, architect Robert Konieczny, of KWK Promes, raises the roof—with sod intact—on Jacek Perkowski’s modernist rural getaway. Konieczny lifted the existing ground and wrapped it around the roof and exterior rooftop staircase, essentially making all floors “ground” level.

    Make an architectural statement: In southwest Poland, architect Robert Konieczny, of KWK Promes, raises the roof—with sod intact—on Jacek Perkowski’s modernist rural getaway. Konieczny lifted the existing ground and wrapped it around the roof and exterior rooftop staircase, essentially making all floors “ground” level.

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  Use a green roof to add an organic touch to a prefabricated design, like this tailor-made energy-efficient green home in Menlo Park, California. Though the "invisible" green design elements carry the lion's share of the measurable environmental benefits, the most stunning attribute is the living roof designed by Lauren Schneider of Wonderland Garden and planted with succulents, aloe, viviums, and ice plants that flower in swaths of white and purple. Photo by Joe Fletcher.  Photo by: Joe Fletcher

    Use a green roof to add an organic touch to a prefabricated design, like this tailor-made energy-efficient green home in Menlo Park, California. Though the "invisible" green design elements carry the lion's share of the measurable environmental benefits, the most stunning attribute is the living roof designed by Lauren Schneider of Wonderland Garden and planted with succulents, aloe, viviums, and ice plants that flower in swaths of white and purple. Photo by Joe Fletcher.

    Photo by: Joe Fletcher

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  Is your thumb more brown than green? Consider succulents, like this modern bungalow in Venice Beach, California. A guest bedroom, with furniture from Room & Board, overlooks the bridge above the dining courtyard. The home’s landscape architecture is by Ventura, California–based Jack Kiesel. Photo by Coral von Zumwalt.  Courtesy of: Coral von Zumwalt

    Is your thumb more brown than green? Consider succulents, like this modern bungalow in Venice Beach, California. A guest bedroom, with furniture from Room & Board, overlooks the bridge above the dining courtyard. The home’s landscape architecture is by Ventura, California–based Jack Kiesel. Photo by Coral von Zumwalt.

    Courtesy of: Coral von Zumwalt

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  Going green doesn't require California state residency, either. This green roof atop a Washington, DC, home is what resident Daniel Pink believes to be the first of its kind in the neighborhood. The sedum plantings come from nearby Emory Knoll Farms, the only nursery in North America to focus solely on propagating plants intended for green-roof systems. Photo by Eli Meir Kaplan.  Photo by: Eli Meir KaplanCourtesy of: © 2012 Eli Meir Kaplan Photography

    Going green doesn't require California state residency, either. This green roof atop a Washington, DC, home is what resident Daniel Pink believes to be the first of its kind in the neighborhood. The sedum plantings come from nearby Emory Knoll Farms, the only nursery in North America to focus solely on propagating plants intended for green-roof systems. Photo by Eli Meir Kaplan.

    Photo by: Eli Meir Kaplan

    Courtesy of: © 2012 Eli Meir Kaplan Photography

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  Don't own a single-family home? A green roof works on larger scales, too. This six-story, 198-unit building in the Bronx was developed by Common Ground, an organization that constructs supportive housing for formerly homeless, special-needs, and low-income individuals. The organization worked with Alexander Gorlin Architects to design sensitive social housing that includes a vibrant green roof.

    Don't own a single-family home? A green roof works on larger scales, too. This six-story, 198-unit building in the Bronx was developed by Common Ground, an organization that constructs supportive housing for formerly homeless, special-needs, and low-income individuals. The organization worked with Alexander Gorlin Architects to design sensitive social housing that includes a vibrant green roof.

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  Why go with a green roof? This infographic calculates costs versus benefit and gives tips (hint: chickens) on how to maintain grassy perfection.

    Why go with a green roof? This infographic calculates costs versus benefit and gives tips (hint: chickens) on how to maintain grassy perfection.

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  Another useful deployment for a living roof? Warm up a shipping container! Though this Texas garden retreat and guesthouse is only 8' x 40', it features all the comforts of a larger house: floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows, heating and air-conditioning, a green roof, bamboo flooring and wallcoverings, a small sink and shower, and a composting toilet. Jon Ahrens of Madrone Landscaping, who layed out the plantings around the container, implemented a green roof on a drip watering system. The cantilevered overhang at rear is planted with cacti. Photo by Chris Cooper.  Photo by: Chris Cooper

    Another useful deployment for a living roof? Warm up a shipping container! Though this Texas garden retreat and guesthouse is only 8' x 40', it features all the comforts of a larger house: floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows, heating and air-conditioning, a green roof, bamboo flooring and wallcoverings, a small sink and shower, and a composting toilet. Jon Ahrens of Madrone Landscaping, who layed out the plantings around the container, implemented a green roof on a drip watering system. The cantilevered overhang at rear is planted with cacti. Photo by Chris Cooper.

    Photo by: Chris Cooper

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