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8 Favorites: Green Roof Inspiration

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8 Favorites: Green Roof Inspiration

May 19, 2023

Got a flat roof? Yearning for some green space in a sea of concrete? Looking to do your part to help fight climate change? Consider installing a green roof—and transform your once heat-absorbing asphalt or synthetic rubber roof into a dreamy meadow or a lush garden or a carpet of sedums. Below, some inspiration from our archives.

Above: “We definitely wanted to make this project as ‘green’ as possible, and to have it be visually integrated into the land,” said architect Jonathan Feldman, of the yoga studio, topped with a green roof, designed for clients who are also avid gardeners. This is the view of the studio from the upper home. Photograph by Joe Fletcher, from Roof Garden: Cottages in the Mill Valley Forest.
Sala Architects found space on top of an extra-large garage for a sauna and green roof. The materials for the green roof were sourced by Omni Ecosystems, which the homeowners chose for its soil-science approach to creating a lightweight, low-maintenance green roof. Photograph by Gaffer Photography, from Sauna Culture: A Rooftop Oasis (and Wildflower Meadow) in Minnesota.
Above: Sala Architects found space on top of an extra-large garage for a sauna and green roof. The materials for the green roof were sourced by Omni Ecosystems, which the homeowners chose for its soil-science approach to creating a lightweight, low-maintenance green roof. Photograph by Gaffer Photography, from Sauna Culture: A Rooftop Oasis (and Wildflower Meadow) in Minnesota.
A flagstone path cuts through an urban meadow wonderland on Vice Media’s \20,000-foot rooftop garden, built by the design team behind Brooklyn Grange. Just eight inches of planting depth (using green roof media by Rooflite) supports this thriving plant community. Photograph by Marie Viljoen, from Vice Media&#8\2\17;s Rooftop: A Brooklyn Meadow Garden with Panoramic Views.
Above: A flagstone path cuts through an urban meadow wonderland on Vice Media’s 20,000-foot rooftop garden, built by the design team behind Brooklyn Grange. Just eight inches of planting depth (using green roof media by Rooflite) supports this thriving plant community. Photograph by Marie Viljoen, from Vice Media’s Rooftop: A Brooklyn Meadow Garden with Panoramic Views.
Above: This living roof in Brooklyn was designed by Marni Majorelle of Alive Structures for her clients, who wanted a way to cool the building naturally. The roof is sloped, so the lightweight growing medium they used to cover the surface is deeper at the far end of the roof, where larger plants, like the towering Joe Pye Weed, can thrive. Photograph courtesy of Ari Burling, from Brooklyn Oasis: A City Roof Garden, Before and After.
The benefit of this daisy-filled meadow, topping the new addition of a townhouse, is that it&#8\2\17;s visible from both the ground and the second-floor rooms. Photograph by Adam Scott, courtesy of Fraher & Findlay, from Fresh as a Daisy: A Wildflower Roof on a Home Designed by Fraher & Findlay.
Above: The benefit of this daisy-filled meadow, topping the new addition of a townhouse, is that it’s visible from both the ground and the second-floor rooms. Photograph by Adam Scott, courtesy of Fraher & Findlay, from Fresh as a Daisy: A Wildflower Roof on a Home Designed by Fraher & Findlay.
From the road, this home seems to disappear thanks to a street-level green roof. It’s planted with native poa grasses and pigface (an Australian succulent), and reduces stormwater runoff, cools the rooms below it, and provides natural habitat for thornbills. Photograph by Derek Swalwell, courtesy of Kennedy Nolan, from Prospect & Refuge: A Spectacular Coastal Home Both Wild and Cozy.
Above: From the road, this home seems to disappear thanks to a street-level green roof. It’s planted with native poa grasses and pigface (an Australian succulent), and reduces stormwater runoff, cools the rooms below it, and provides natural habitat for thornbills. Photograph by Derek Swalwell, courtesy of Kennedy Nolan, from Prospect & Refuge: A Spectacular Coastal Home Both Wild and Cozy.
Above: The view from an upper level looking down onto the green roof of a Brooklyn brownstone, planted with gray-green catmint, scented thyme, and tufts of purple heuchera. “This unexpected patch of rooftop garden provides a much needed buffer from the city beyond,” says landscape designer Liz Pulver. Photograph by Oresti Tsonopoulos, from Liz Pulver Design’s Room to Breathe in Brooklyn.
Here, Wade Moises, the former executive chef of NYC eatery Rosemary, tends to rows of fresh herbs and produce at the restaurant&#8\2\17;s rooftop garden designed by ABA Studio. It enjoys a sunny southern exposure and though it&#8\2\17;s a one-floor building in a city dominated by skyscrapers, none of its neighboring buildings cast shade. Photograph courtesy of Rosemary’s, from Restaurant Visit: A Secret Roof Garden at Rosemary&#8\2\17;s in Greenwich Village.
Above: Here, Wade Moises, the former executive chef of NYC eatery Rosemary, tends to rows of fresh herbs and produce at the restaurant’s rooftop garden designed by ABA Studio. It enjoys a sunny southern exposure and though it’s a one-floor building in a city dominated by skyscrapers, none of its neighboring buildings cast shade. Photograph courtesy of Rosemary’s, from Restaurant Visit: A Secret Roof Garden at Rosemary’s in Greenwich Village.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a green roof?

A green roof is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and planted over a waterproof membrane. It provides insulation, reduces stormwater runoff, and improves air quality.

What are the benefits of a green roof?

Some benefits of a green roof include improved energy efficiency, reduced urban heat island effect, enhanced biodiversity, increased lifespan of the roof, and improved stormwater management.

What types of plants are suitable for green roofs?

Plants that are suitable for green roofs are typically low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and can withstand extreme weather conditions. Some common examples include sedums, grasses, herbs, and wildflowers.

Can any building have a green roof?

In general, any building with a flat or sloped roof can have a green roof. However, it is important to assess the structural capacity of the building to support the additional weight and consult with a professional before installation.

Do green roofs require a lot of maintenance?

Green roofs generally require minimal maintenance once established. Typical maintenance activities include regular inspections, weeding, pruning, fertilizing, and occasional replanting.

How much does a green roof cost?

The cost of a green roof can vary depending on various factors such as the size of the roof, the type of plants selected, the complexity of the installation, and local labor rates. It is recommended to obtain quotes from reputable contractors for an accurate estimation.

Are there any incentives or subsidies available for installing a green roof?

Some cities and municipalities offer incentives or subsidies for installing green roofs as part of their sustainability initiatives. It is advisable to check with local authorities or environmental agencies for any available programs.

How long do green roofs usually last?

When properly installed and maintained, a green roof can last between 30 to 50 years. Regular inspections and maintenance can help ensure its longevity.

Can I install a green roof myself?

Installing a green roof requires specialized knowledge and expertise. It is recommended to hire a professional contractor who has experience in green roof installations to ensure proper design, waterproofing, and plant selection.

Can a green roof be retrofitted to an existing building?

Yes, it is possible to retrofit a green roof to an existing building. However, it may require additional structural modifications and a thorough assessment of the building's capacity to support the added weight.

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