The Environmental And Energy Advantages Of Green Roofs


While replacing a roof is one of the most expensive home improvements a property owner is ever likely to make, it is also one of the biggest opportunities. Green roofs, for example, can save money, extend the life of the roof, and help the environment.

The term green roof has a very specific definition. It is the covering of a house or other type of building that is totally covered by vegetation in a planting medium. So, you can\’t just splash a bit of verdant paint on your shingles and expect to get the same environmental and energy-efficient effects.

City councils get very excited about living roofs. They create natural habitats for desirable bird and insect life, filter carbon dioxide and other impurities from the air and rainwater, act as a type of soundproofing, and mitigate the urban heat island effect (UHI).

The urban heat island effect refers to the fact that metropolitan areas are a lot warmer than the suburban and rural areas that surround it. Heat is created directly by human activity. The effect was first noticed in the early 19th century. The UHI contributes to increased length of growing seasons experienced by areas downwind of large cities.

The UHI effect is measurable. Traditional roofing materials, such as metal, shingles, slate, etc., all absorb solar radiation and then turn around and release it as heat. This is what causes city roof temperatures to become as high as 7 degrees warmer than in the suburbs. Having a living roof greatly reduces this effect. Chicago City Hall, for example, has an eco-roof. Compared to neighboring buildings with more conventional roofing materials, the City Hall roof is up to eight degrees cooler. Cities all over the country are beginning to find creative ways of encouraging homes and businesses to jump on board the eco-roof bandwagon.

Insect species like butterflies and bees and certain types of bird are attracted to vegetative roofs. Since it is urbanization that has decreased their available natural habitats, it seems only fair that we put something back to attract them. It is essential for our own survival. Bees, in particular, occupy a crucial niche in the ecosystem and are under particular threat.

An eco-roof can also help to offset your carbon footprint. Carbon, the main component of vegetative matter, is absorbed from the atmosphere by growing plants. Power plants are major emitters of CO2, and a vegetative roof can act as a sink for this extra load. In the United States, buildings account for more than one-third of carbon dioxide emissions. Studies have been carried out in Maryland and Michigan that verify this observation.

There are financial advantages to installing an eco-roof on your home. By absorbing solar radiation, they can dramatically reduce energy consumed by air conditioning. Additionally, some city councils offer rebates, grants, or tax reductions. Such incentives tend to be available in regions where environmental pollutants contained in stormwater runoff are a major concern. They are also sometimes employed in areas where the urban heat island effect is an issue.

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