25 Green Roofs That Bring Spectacular Homes to New Levels

A planted rooftop offers so much more than just an elevated leafy surface.

Green-roof systems can reduce heating and cooling costs, decrease storm water runoff, and help reduce pollution. Composed of a waterproofing layer, root barrier, drainage system, and a growing medium for the vegetation, living roofs give birds, insects, and urban dwellers a little extra green space without taking up any square footage outside of a home's existing footprint. Below, you’ll find a collection of green roofs that’ll make you want to research how to retrofit your own. 

An Australian Architect’s Impressive Green Roof

Emilio Fuscaldo, founder of Melbourne-based Nest Architects, designed this brick house for himself and his partner, Anna Krien, on a small subdivided lot in Coburg, a suburb north of Melbourne, Australia. The 500-square-foot green roof of the home is much more than just an environmental statement. Water from the rooftop feeds the toilet and the garden’s watering system, while the garden serves as insulation to keep the gas bills low in the winter. 

On the outskirts of Austin, Texas, architect Thomas Bercy built the Edgeland House for lawyer and writer, Chris Brown. The home is topped by a living roof to help it blend smoothly into the landscape, which was conceptualized by John Hart Asher of the Ecosystem Design Group at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Birds, butterflies, bees, dragonflies, hawks, snakes, lizards, and frogs all treat the house like just another grassy knoll; this nature show is visible through the glass-and-steel walls that look toward the rift between the structure’s distinct halves.

When architect Paul Bernier and lawyer Joëlle Thibault sought to expand their home in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood of Montreal, they designed two additions: a new office on the top level and a backyard playroom with a green roof. The single-story addition to the row house adds square footage without eating up too much outdoor space. The green roof also helps makes up for lost garden beds, while creating attractive, leafy views from the second and third floors.

When Bay Area landscape designer Loretta Gargan had the opportunity to work on her own home—a one-bedroom weekend cottage in Marin County, California, shared with her partner, artist Catherine Wagner—the couple "mapped the idiosyncratic plants that had to stay," Loretta says. This included old oaks and a hundred-year-old olive tree intertwined with a vigorous climbing white rose. The homeowners also incorporated a green roof, which blooms with poppies, strawberries, and a spectrum of native wildflowers.

Situated in the rolling hills outside of São Paulo, this 10,763-square-foot family home designed by Brazilian architecture firm Studio MK27 takes its name from the structure’s low-lying horizontal form. The Planar House is built entirely of reinforced, poured in-situ concrete, except for the metallic pillars on opposite ends of the home. The green roof, which the architects call "the fifth facade of the building," is accessible via ladder. 

Rian and Melissa Jorgensen’s Menlo Park, California, home boasts the usual components of green design: energy-efficient lighting, good insulation, renewable material finishes, radiant heat, and a roof that’s prewired for future PV panels. Still, one of the homeowners’ favorite aspects of the residence is the living roof by Lauren Schneider of Wonderland Garden, which is planted with succulents, aloe, viviums, and ice plants that flower in swaths of white and purple.

For the remodel of his family’s home in San Francisco, designer Peter Liang undertook a two-part landscaping renovation. First, he planted a living roof. Then, with the help of landscape architect Andrea Cochran, he redid the backyard. "I wanted to plant a green roof for its thermal mass, but I wanted it to be as natural as possible," Liang says. The resulting 580-square-foot green roof is like a piece of the hill; its indigenous vegetation—seeded by birds and wind—is irrigated only by seasonal rain and dew. Purple thistles, California poppies, clover, and dandelions have all taken root in the roughly ten-inch-deep, lightweight humus and grape-husk soil.

Tucked away on the edge of a small lake surrounded by mountains and topped off with a grass-covered roof, this hunting cabin designed by Snøhetta is made with locally sourced stones. The 376-square-foot prefab mountain hut sleeps up to 21 guests around a central fireplace.

This $47 million affordable housing project known as Bud Clark Commons was designed by Holst Architecture in Portland’s Pearl District. The building incorporates a design sensibility that’s usually reserved for luxury lofts—and enough green features to obtain a LEED Platinum rating.

Using construction techniques passed down from his father—and plenty of nearby lumber—Marlin Hanson built a home for his family of five on the side of Mount Elphinstone in British Columbia, Canada. "When I picked the site, I imagined the house looking like it was part of the field it sat in," says Marlin. To achieve that effect, the family planted an evolving array of flowers, grass, moss, and succulents on the rooftop. "I go up with the kids in the spring, and we rip out handfuls of them and put them in new places," explains Marlin.

Carmel, California-based architecture firm Carver & Schicketanz built a 1,900-square-foot home in Big Sur with a low-maintenance green roof that includes native plants such as California oat and red fescue. The green roof blends into the surrounding two acres of native grasses, which the architects planted on the site to replace the more invasive coyote brush that was there before.

Emerging gracefully from an overgrown meadow on Chappaquiddick Island near Edgartown, Massachusetts, the smart design of this family vacation home earned Peter Rose + Partners an Honor Award for Design Excellence from the Boston Society of Architects in 2014. Natural sea grasses were sourced from the surrounding area to cover the roof of the building, providing thermal insulation while also dampening the noise of rain, improving air quality, and helping to manage rainwater flow.

Architects Joseph Tanney and Robert Luntz of Manhattan-based firm Resolution: 4 designed this prefabricated, modular home with two green roofs on Fishers Island, New York. The landscape architects at Reed Hilderbrand planted sedge grass on one of the rooftops to reflect the texture of the surrounding meadow. The second green roof was planted with sedum and plays host to one of the family’s favorite spots: a hammock.

Designed by Belgium architectural studio OYO Architects, this 1,883-square-foot family residence in Maldegem, East Flanders, was conceived with a single green roof that meets the grass at ground level. The concrete base of the structure supports a lightweight timber frame, which was assembled in a local warehouse before being mounted on site. Different plants are grown on the green roof throughout the seasons.

In Copenhagen’s Nørrebro neighborhood, architect Julien De Smedt replaced an apartment building's confined attic area with three new penthouses and built a common "backyard" on the roof. The construction was done to make sure that the four areas of the roof—the sundeck, grass hill, play space, and outdoor terrace—all felt like distinct but united areas.

In San Francisco’s hillside Castro Heights neighborhood, Joshua Aidlin of Aidlin Darling Design recast a midcentury terrace home as a three-story, multigenerational retreat crowned by a living roof. The planted rooftop performs multiple functions: it forms an insulating body for the interior, naturally filters rainwater prior to entering the public sewage system, and provides the occasional biophilic prospect to view the city from.

In a forest clearing about 100 miles southwest of Mexico City, nine black concrete volumes make up a family home designed by Fernanda Canales with landscaping by Claudia Rodríguez. The structures that contain the living room and a guest bedroom were designed with roof terraces, while green roofs cover four of the other cuboid volumes.

South African couple Lukas and Wendy van Niekerk turned to local firm Daffonchio Architects to build their home within the 1,300-acre Monaghan Farm eco-estate near Johannesburg. The house is intentionally sunk into the ground and features planted grass roofs that reflect the vegetation that existed before the building’s construction. "We literally recreated the original landscape on the roof gardens, so that from a bird’s eye view, the home should blend perfectly into its surroundings," says architect Enrico Daffonchio.

Constructed in Warmia, a northeastern region of Poland known as the Land of the Thousand Lakes, this L-shaped home designed by architect Przemek Olczyk of Mobius Architekci emerges from the landscape with transparent walls and a lush green roof. As the roof folds and the grade recedes, a concrete-and-glass structure with wooden accents is revealed. 

In the dense municipality of San Isidro, Argentina, Buenos Aires–based firm BAM! Arquitectura built the MeMo House, which is made from reinforced concrete and features garden space on all three levels. An undulating "system of green ramps," as the architects describe it, creates a garden terrace that flows from floor to floor. The green roofs are largely populated with native plants, requiring less water expenditure, and the homeowner also grows her own vegetables. 

Stained cedar, ipe, and concrete form the palette of this 2,500-square-foot home in Kansas City, Missouri, designed by architect Josh Shelton of El Dorado Inc. Built into a sloped site, the sunken structure is topped with a lush roof that’s planted with indigenous wildflowers and native grasses. The green roof also helps insulate the home and limit its energy needs. 

On a small and awkward site in Wing—a village in England’s Midlands region—London-based firm Featherstone Young built a 3,735-square-foot home for retired doctors Matthew and Nicky Lyttelton. A distinctive green roof melds the building with the surrounding landscape, spiraling around the wings of the house and encircling a central open courtyard.

When a pair of university professors with a newborn baby girl approached João Paulo, founding partner of the São Paulo–based firm Vereda Arquiteto, to build their home on a 1,000-square-meter lot between the Brazilian cities of Salto de Pirapora and Sorocaba, the couple asked for "a house that was very open to the outside [and] would be in contact with nature," says Paulo. The firm’s design plan started with three concrete volumes, each partially submerged in the sloping land, topped with a reinforced concrete slab that shapes the core of the home. The roofs are covered in plantings, some enclosed and some exposed.

Located in Waterberg, South Africa, the House of the Tall Chimneys is a long, narrow guesthouse that appears to grow from a steep cliff out into the trees. Designed by Johannesburg-based architecture studio Frankie Pappas, the brick-clad structure is capped with a green roof planted with site-endemic grasses, aloes, and creepers. The team scanned the forested site to create a 3D model—including trees, branches, and roots—that would allow them to accurately determine how to position and design the building to have minimal impact on the surrounding vegetation.  

Architect Gabrielė Ubarevičiūtė designed the House and the River—a 1,600-square-foot family residence in Lithuania—with After Party cofounder Giedrius Mamavicius. "We wanted to create a space that seamlessly merges with the natural setting and expands the living environment from inside to outside," says Ubarevičiūtė. The home’s main volume is intersected with a wood-clad terrace, which is shielded by a sloped green roof that touches all the way to the ground.


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