Republic of Moreland

May 10, 2007

Green roofs could make more land in Moreland

This is what I’d like to see more of in residential Moreland:

And, in our light industrial areas, this:

A brand new gallery of photographs of green roofs from around the world is on the Green Roofs for Healthy Australian Cities website. Just follow the links to the photo gallery.

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18 Comments »

  1. As cute as this would be there are problems with this idea, firstly most buildings are not substantial enough for their roofs to carry the extra weight of the required soil to grow these plants, Secondly it is rather difficult and expensive to ensure that no water leaks into the building below such green roofs. And thirdly such roof gardens would vastly increase inner urban water consumption, which is already far too high. But apart from those No worries!!

    Comment by Iain — May 10, 2007 @ 6:49 am | Reply

  2. I would’ve raised these points, too, Iain, had I not read a couple of books on green roofs around the world and attended the green roofs conference this year. These issues have long, long since been addressed.

    In fact, a green roof can be retrofitted even on to a standard tin roof, and needn’t be expensive. A green roof can extend your roof life and decrease your water consumption, not to mention your carbon footprint and heating and cooling bills. Depending on your roof requirements and what sort of roof garden you want (intensive/extensive, high or low profile, native or exotic, etc etc)

    There now exists the engineering and lightweight soil mediums to make it happen. And Brisbane City Council has now offered $1 million rebate to developers who put rooftop gardens on their buildings.

    Green roofs actually assist in water management, and leakage is an issue that has long been tackled by green roof engineers: a green roof usually consists of a high quality water proofing and root repellant system, a drainage system, filter cloth, a lightweight growing medium and plants.

    A background briefing is here.

    Comment by Girl on The Avenue — May 10, 2007 @ 10:00 am | Reply

  3. Living roofs like this also decrease the heat island effect that takes place in cities and other over-paved and -cemented areas. So, for urban zones, it’s a way of combating warming. They also increase air quality, and are obviously more attractive than bare roofs that do nothing but reflect and magnify glare and heat. If you were to grow food on them, that also decreases the need for shipping. They’re excellent all ’round.

    Comment by Bane of Malakas — May 10, 2007 @ 10:44 am | Reply

  4. I still have my doubts that even with your lightweight growing media I would still say that the roofs would need structural reinforcement to carry the weight. Sod roofs were traditionally used in cold climates where the extra mass had an insulation value but I do not think that in our warmer climate it would be as efficacious as you suggest. As I was saying there would be a need for extra water and in the current conditions that would be a problem.
    Another ting is the safety issue when it comes to maintaining such gardens there would be a need for safety fencing around the edges of such roofs further adding to the cost . Another thing that you have perhaps not considered is the risk of fire ,especially if you use combustible natives
    Finally there is the risk of disease there have been a number of cases where gardeners have died from exposure to micro organisms in potting mixes and the idea of having tones of the stuff on the roof where debris can rain down upon us is not so flash in my opinion.
    Cheers

    Comment by Iain — May 10, 2007 @ 11:16 am | Reply

  5. Wow, Iain, you sound like my mum! A long list of considered-but-coincidentally-negative responses to new ideas! It must take a lot of effort to come up with only the con-list. Of course all those things you mention are valid and occured to me when I read the first post here about green roofs, but fool that I am, I still couldn’t help getting all excited and rushing off half-cocked to sit out the back with half a bottle of pinot-noir to ponder our various roof lines.

    What I’m also wondering about is just how much can you ask of a roof? We are also hoping to install solar panels and capture more water from the roof, how does a roof garden fit in with all this? Can a roof garden be engineered to act as a cleaning system for greywater? How do I get the chooks up there?

    Comment by faith — May 10, 2007 @ 11:46 am | Reply

  6. hi Faith
    I have played the alternative lifestyle game and it is by no means a bed of roses. Things like making all roofs into gardens sounds lovely but when you have done a bit of building as I have you start to understand that such a radical change to a building is not as simple as GOTA thinks. Build from scratch and it is different but try retro fitting to existing buildings and it is a whoa lets really think about it situation.
    If you assume even with “light weight” growing media that we are adding say 40 k weight per sq metre of roof to a house with 200 sq M of roof that is 8000kg of extra weight you are adding to the roof That is eight Tonnes!! Plus the weight of the plants plus the weight of water that it will retain when it rains. Look at how they make earth sheltered houses and the shell of the building is very substantial indeed.
    Cheers
    Iain

    PS your mum must be a cool lady BTW 😉

    Comment by Iain — May 10, 2007 @ 5:28 pm | Reply

  7. are my comments being moderated?

    Comment by Iain — May 10, 2007 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

  8. hi Faith
    I have played the alternative lifestyle game and it is by no means a bed of roses. Things like making all roofs into gardens sounds lovely but when you have done a bit of building as I have you start to understand that such a radical change to a building is not as simple as GOTA thinks. Build from scratch and it is different but try retro fitting to existing buildings and it is a whoa lets really think about it situation.
    If you assume even with “light weight” growing media that we are adding say 40 k weight per sq metre of roof to a house with 200 sq M of roof that is 8000kg of extra weight you are adding to the roof That is eight Tonnes!! Plus the weight of the plants plus the weight of water that it will retain when it rains. Look at how they make earth sheltered houses and the shell of the building is very substantial indeed.
    Cheers
    Iain

    PS Faith your mum must be a cool lady BTW 😉

    Comment by Iain — May 10, 2007 @ 5:36 pm | Reply

  9. Thanks for the question, faith: although it’s probably best addressed to the Australian Green Roofs site http://greenroofs.wordpress.com . Members include structural engineers, architects, estimators, builders, urban ecologists, built environment academics and landscapers & horticulturalists, so between them your question can be answered.

    I don’t think it’s an either-or question: I’ve certainly seen documented green roofs with solar panels. There’s a study, I think from California, showing green roofs actually work in concert with solar panels: their cooling effects help pv /efficiency gains. Someone on the green roofs site can direct you to this.

    All the answers to all Iain’s concerns are addressed on the site I linked to and research papers in these: (I suggest you read these, Iain. The technology and answers are here, now):

    http://commons.bcit.ca/greenroof/
    http://hortweb.cas.psu.edu/research/greenroofcenter/
    http://www.greenroofs.net/index.php
    http://www.greenroofs.com/

    Read those Ian, before you pour water on this very important growth industry! 🙂
    Councils and governments wouldn’t be encouraging green roofs in their urban planning regulations if they hadn’t thought all these issues through. The green roof industry has been around for years, now. In Germany there’s more than 12% coverage, which is reducing the country’s CO2 emissions, helping manage stormwater, etc etc.

    Some roofs don’t require structural reinforcement: companies like Versitank are, here in Australia, offering green roof systems that quite literally clip on to your existing tin roof. And lightweight mediums ARE light: Hydrocell, which I use, is lighter when wet than sand is when dry. I mean LIGHT: nowhere near approaching a tenth of the figure you come up with. Enough to cover about 10 square metres weighs a couple of kilos.

    Other green roofs I’ve heard about “float” above the existing roof (that is, they are supported by posts that go to the ground.)

    My green roof (still in its infancy) is simply a few plastic containers with Hydrocell and vines, which I plant to grow over the whole roof. Collectively they weigh more or less what I do, or less, but are spread over a larger area. I’m up on the roof regularly, without causing structural damage.

    And it’s simply untrue you necessarily need more water for a green roof. The industry, naturally, thought of that already. There are sedum blankets, grasses, turf roofs and succulents that need zero added water. And passing rain through a green roof actually renovates water, and the thermal insulation can actually reduce an industrial buildings water consumption.

    Urban ecologists (and Adelaide City Council) are encouraging green roofs to attract insects back into the city, to feed endangered microbats.

    (And no: what comment was moderated?)

    Comment by Girl on The Avenue — May 10, 2007 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

  10. Thanks for all the info GOTA.

    And Iain, its not that I don’t appreciate whats required to support a green roof, (I DID study building at Melbourne University, albeit 20 years ago). The point I was trying to make was that I don’t see a couple of practical obstacles as reason to dismiss an idea outright. All the best obstacles are worth overcoming! And as GOTA points out, you can tailor your dreams to the fit of your jib (god, I hope there are no sailors reading this, that metaphor is really confused). I think its great that she is sharing her enthusiasm, the research and point-checking I can manage for myself.

    Comment by faith — May 10, 2007 @ 10:04 pm | Reply

  11. Don’t take my comments the wrong way but I know from personal experience that it is better to really think things through than to go in boots and all and then discover some problem that you had not thought of.

    You see up here in sunny Queensland the houses and buildings are built much more lightly than they are down south which is one of the things that informs my opinion and I can see some benefits for this sort of scheme but just ignore the problems either.

    Comment by Iain — May 11, 2007 @ 7:07 am | Reply

  12. Who is “going in boots and all”, Iain? Certainly not the industry, who haven’t ignored the challenges. The challenges have been many and varied. For example: how do we mount green roofs on pitched roofs without slippage? How do we account for low-load-bearing roofs (in Europe and North America, there are high-load-bearing roofs)? What vegetation requires the least water; what media are lightweight?

    If you click on the sites I’ve listed, you can find the well-researched and documented answers in real case studies. This is not some whimsical, fledgling industry.

    If we all thought in terms of your fearful scenarios: catching diseases from potting mixes (which tend not to be used on green roofs); saftety issues requiring roof fencing (domestic green roofs tend not to be climbed up on, and tend to be very low maintenance); the risk of fire (!!!) — all these suggest you wouldn’t want gardens in our urban environment, either. Or parks. Or the many green roofs that currently exist. Just in case all those structural engineers and landscape architects and urban planners didn’t “think things through” and “then discover some problem that you had not thought of.” Perhaps we should all just keep our heads down in a concrete bunker, and hope urban environmental issues go away? 🙂

    Up where you are, in Sunny Queensland, is in fact where green roofs are taking off most rapidly. The green roof conference was up there, and the Green Roof For Healthy Australian Cities head office is up there. So are its president and vice-president. It is up there that the Brisbane City Council is formulating policy to encourage green roofs, and Central Queensland University is doing pilot projects to grow food from the roof.

    Comment by Girl on The Avenue — May 11, 2007 @ 11:04 am | Reply

  13. And speaking of Green roofs, did you see Waste=Food on SBS? Ford, USA have created an amazing green roof as part of a site renovation they undertook when faced with the fact that they had so badly polluted their factory site they were going to have to move to China. As the CEO of Ford pointed out, they didn’t do it for any ‘green’ reasons, they’re hard-nosed industrialists who when confronted with the couple who suggested the idea (an architect sporting a cape and bow-tie and an ex-Greenpeace german scientist) where prepared to be dismissive. They did it, and all the other environmentally friendly and sustainable renovations, for hard-boiled bottom-line reasons. It saved them a fortune and will go on to do so in operational costs.

    When you have companies like Ford and Nike jumping on the bandwagon you know it’s no longer out-there unconsidered flights-of-fancy. These are notoriously conservative money-makers who don’t take risks and certainly don’t go for ‘green’ ideas until they’re proven practically and fiscally to contribute to their bottom-line.

    Comment by faith — May 14, 2007 @ 1:24 pm | Reply

  14. I wish I’d seen the program. Yes, the Ford plant claims to be the biggest green roof in the world, but I think Chicago’s Centenary Park (24 acres) is actually bigger.

    And Toyota has also put a green roof up: can’t find it online right now, but there’s a picture of it in the photo gallery at http://greenroofs.wordpress.com

    Comment by Girl on The Avenue — May 14, 2007 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

  15. Check this out: proposals for vertical farming in New York City.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6752795.stm

    Comment by Bane of Malakas — June 20, 2007 @ 1:06 pm | Reply

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    Comment by lucydance — February 26, 2008 @ 8:22 pm | Reply

  17. I am writing an article about green rooftops for suite 101.com, an online magazine. Your picture of the green roof on a home is ideal for illustrating my atricle. I am requesting your permission to use this picture and credit it to your site.
    Thank you. Brigitte Straub

    Comment by Brigitte Straub — May 18, 2010 @ 4:59 am | Reply

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