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Modern cottage with a green roofPut a Living Roof on Your Modern Homestead

by Staff Writer

The living roof was utilized for hundreds of years because it is an effective and affordable green roofing material, but it is gaining renewed interest as an environmentally sound and sustainable green building practice. In its simplest form, a living roof consists of vegetation, a growing medium, and a waterproof barrier. Living roof implementations provide many environmental and economical benefits to projects of all sizes in rural and urban settings. Before you start shoveling sod onto your roof, however, there are a few things that you should consider.

It is possible to retrofit an existing building with a living roof, but the structure must be able to sustain the additional weight. The weight of the vegetation, the growing medium, and the potential water-carrying load must all be considered to ensure the safety of the building and its occupants. Average yearly rainfall, temperature, and maintenance requirements must be considered before committing to a green living roof. Proper design and planning will ensure you enjoy the full benefits of a green roof.

Living roofs can be beautiful, but they also offer many benefits to the environment. In urban environments, a green roof can collect a significant amount of rainwater that could otherwise lead to flooding or overwhelm city sewers and drain systems. The plants capture carbon and release oxygen into the environment, and microbes in the soil can act with natural filtering processes to clean and detoxify rain water. Habitat is created for plants, insects, and other wildlife that would otherwise be lost. Living roof design also helps to reduce the heat island effect in urban environments. Green roofs are great for the environment, but they are also a sound financial investment for the property owner.

The thermal mass of the living roof regulates the temperature of the building by acting as a flywheel; it gathers heat in the day and slowly releases it at night, which moderates the temperature of the structure. The soil and plant matter has an additional Green living roof on a homesteads cabincooling effect due to the natural evaporative process. Sod or soil is a very good insulator and the thermal mass helps to further reduce heating and cooling costs. The many benefits of living roofs can be accomplished with a very simple design consisting of several roofing layers.

Suitable roofs should already be watertight before the living roof is installed. Insulation is placed over the roof structure and covered with a waterproof barrier. Coarse gravel may be added, along with a system for water collection and drainage. A filter of burlap, straw, or other synthetic

material can then be placed to keep fine soil particles from entering the drainage system. At this stage, sod, soil, or some combination of growing medium is applied to suit the environment, structure, and expected vegetation. The success of the vegetation and the benefits achieved depends on proper plant selection for your living roof.

Vegetation for the living roof can vary, but short prairie grasses, mosses and lichen, or succulents, such as Sedum, are popular choices. Succulents are great for absorbing large quantities of water from the soil and then surviving through periodic droughts. Grasses are great for shedding heavy rainfall once maximum absorption has been achieved. The appearance of the living roof is also important. Wildflowers have good properties and are favored by some green homeowners who want a bright and whimsical appearance.

Living roofs do cost more than traditional roofs, but the initial investment doesn’t take into account environmental benefits, greater durability and efficiency, and the unique character of a living roof. Research green roof options thoroughly first, but a living roof may be the best option for your modern homestead.