5 Simple Steps to Create DIY Green Roofs

If you like landscaping and take care of the environment, then it is a great idea to create more greenery on the site, turning a regular roof into the green one. This is especially true for urban dwellings, where space for gardens is limited. Your home will stand out from other homes and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and its environmental impacts. We will discuss the impact of a green roof on the energy efficiency of a house below.

What is a Green Roof?

The green roof also referred to as a living roof, is a conventional roof that has been enhanced with a waterproof membrane, a drainage system, and a growing medium that is then covered in vegetation.

The difference between green roofs and other rooftop gardens is that they are usually not planned as accessible to the public. Green roofs are suitable for many applications, including distribution centers, business and office buildings, public buildings and even private roofs. Green roofs also differ in that they add from 17 (dry) to 30 (wet) pounds per square foot to a roof load on the roof, while roof gardens can add up to 100 pounds per square foot or more.

In addition to the main function of the roof, these moderately light loads reduce development costs, while providing huge environmental, aesthetic, and social benefits.

In urban areas, the standard roof includes a dark top, tar and shake. This captures a lot of heat that makes metropolitan areas more stuffy than their suburbs. This is called the urban heat island effect. I addition, getting heat requires a lot of energy and water. Using green roofs can quickly reduce this effect.

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Green Roof Benefits

Green roofs covered with plants and vegetation give many advantages to the building. Here are the main benefits of green roofs:

  • Insulate the home by keeping both the heat in and cold out: control the cooling temperature in summer and reduce heating bills in winter by 10 percent.
  • Absorb up to 80 percent of stormwater runoff.
  • Extend an average roof lifespan (from 15 to 50 years).
  • Reverse the effects of urban heat islands by absorbing heat.
  • Provide habitat for urban-dwelling animals and insects (bees).
  • Significantly improve urban design and recreation space.
  • Some cities offer grants or incentives for green roof construction.
  • Improve air quality by reducing harmful gases (sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide).
  • Create the best conditions to maintain solar panels for the best efficiency by keeping a suitable temperature.
  • Increase the value of real estate.

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The Main Types of Green Roofs

Now you understand the great benefits of the green roof of your home. Although it sounds expensive, you will get a return on your investment in the coming years. You need to decide how much time and resources you want to invest in your green roof. Depending on your decision, you can choose one of three main types of green roofs:

  • Extensive – low-cost maintenance requirements
  • Intensive – the higher cost of maintenance requirements
  • Semi-intensive – an average between the two above types
Extensive Green Roofs

Extensive green roofs are a prevalent choice for property owners, as they have a simple configuration and are not used as elevated gardens. They are reasonable for both existing and new roofing. They require a relatively thin amount of substrate (about 100 pounds for square foot) that supports a low layer of vegetation, about 80 – 100 mm in height, such as grass, moss, sedum or little blooms.

Extensive green roofs
Extensive green roofs

They have all the advantages of cooling and stormwater absorption that comes with a green roof but require very little maintenance. Sedum green roofs are the most well-known sort because of the solidness and low maintenance requirements for the plant. A simplified way to look at an extensive green roof is if you took your yard and placed it on your roof.

Intensive Green Roofs

Intensive green roofs are the type of green roof that makes your home stand out for the general public. These green roofs are ultimately an elevated park with shrubs, trees, gardens, sun based boards, enhancement spaces, etc. This requires a layer of developing medium/soil to support a lot of thicker vegetation.

Of course, the roofs have the advantages of cooling and stormwater absorption like the extensive green roof yet they also have the added benefits of creating livelihoods, and ultimately being a lovely place for recreation in an urban setting.

Intensive green roofs
Intensive green roof

This type of green roof has a significantly higher cost of maintenance. Someone needs to spend time and resources to think things through. In addition, it is more difficult for structural engineers because the weight of the substrate expected to support intensive green roofs is about 200 pounds per square foot.

These green roof constructions are more common in bigger commercial development, including parks and gardens where recreational use is designed. Intensive roofs require a much larger substrate, as well as the need to develop a water supply system. This requires significantly more consideration and support.

Semi-Intensive Green Roofs

Semi-intensive green roofs are another type of green roof, which is usually a combination of extensive and intensive green roofs. This type of green roof has the advantages of each type and is based on the principles of extensive roofs.

Semi-intensive green roof
Semi-intensive green roof

These types of roofs with a greater depth of substrate growth (100 – 200 mm) can support a more significant variety of plants, but not bushes and trees.

One of the most famous green roofs in the world is Chicago’s City Hall, which is a mixture of intense semi-intensive and extensive green roofs.

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Simple Steps to Your Own DIY Green Roof

You can install the green roof on an existing or a new home roof. If you start looking for step-by-step instructions for building a roof garden, you will find a lot of companies selling expensive things. So, having studied the Internet and found out the cost of installation, you may want to start building your own green roof. The extensive green roof is the simplest type to give it a go yourself.

You may want to check if your roof is strong enough to support the weight of a substrate and vegetation. Strengthen the roof, if necessary, with additional joists under the roof and steel frames.

A brief step-by-step direction for building the green roof:

(1) The very first step is to insulate your roof with a water- and root-proof membrane, such as a heavy-duty pond liner to seal all leaks in it.

(2) To retain moisture, roll out a moisture-proof coating that can resist fungi and bacteria.

(3) Cover it with the layer of small stones and large gravel or pebbles around the edge of the roof to provide drainage at the bottom.

(4) Finally, add a substrate layer of 7 to 20 cm thick depending on the type of vegetation. Use a mixture of a substrate of 70 percent inorganic material and 30 percent organic material for lush vegetation growth.

(5) Now you are ready for planting.

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Composition of Plants for Green Roofs 

Despite the fact that green roofs are usually planted with sedums and low grasses, the planting palette can be significantly extended to accommodate more than 100 types of plants.

The variety of plants incorporates local prairie and woodland grasses and forbs, solid decorative perennials and grasses, a few types of local and elaborate bushes, and some varieties of trees.

Your DIY green roof is ready. Over the years, you will enjoy all the benefits, including reduced energy bills and extra space for recreation. Would you invest in your own green roof? Please leave your comment below.

Build a Tiny House – Create Your Freedom

Have you ever dreamed of escaping from a noisy city to a quiet place where there is no pollution, noise, and stress? What if you could travel without leaving your house? This is entirely possible when you have your own tiny house on wheels.

Living in a tiny house can prompt you to start an off-grid lifestyle that has many benefits, such as lower electricity bills and saving money on other things that you like. Tiny houses can be stationary, but since they are built on a trailer, they can be easily moved anywhere. In addition, your tiny house is built in such a way that it can be easily disassembled and then reassembled.

The tiny house movement promotes a simple and economically safe and minimalistic living. Tiny houses are popular in many countries like the US, Canada, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Japan and more. They will become even more popular in the future, because people love to travel, want to escape stressful lives and lead a simple lifestyle. People become more aware of environmental problems and want to reduce their impact on the environment.

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Benefits of Tiny House Living

Living in a tiny house certainly has many advantages that will make your life stress-free and more connected with nature.

But what the owners of tiny houses are most happy about is getting their financial freedom. You can install solar panels on the roof and reduce your energy bills. You will also save you money because you do not need to buy a lot of stuff. Finally, it will completely change your lifestyle to the one you dreamed about.

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Here are just a few of the benefits, and these are definitely not all of them:

  • It’s quite affordable and you save a lot of money on utility bills.
  • You have less stress and anxiety due to a busy lifestyle and an unhealthy environment.
  • You can move it anywhere and travel around the country.
  • You can connect to nature and enjoy the tranquility of nature.
  • You can live a more spiritual and conscious life with less dependence on material things.

In addition to the above, you can engage in various activities such as tiny home communities and tiny home festivals. Joining tiny house expo and festivals is a great opportunity to connect with the kindred people and learn about affordable and sustainable housing.

The first tiny house expo took place on October 11-13, 2019, when about 6,000 people gathered to tour various tiny houses models as a living opportunity. The informational workshops held during the expo taught visitors how to reduce their environmental impact and lead a zero-waste lifestyle, solar options, and DIY building. The expo was organized by SmartShare Housing Solutions in partnership with Ecologistics and SLO Climate Coalition with sponsorship from the city and more than thirty other businesses and organizations.  For information on the Tiny Footprint Expo 2020, go to TinyFootprintExpo.com.

How to build a tiny house?

When you decide to embark on a tiny house journey, do your research first. Just search for “tiny house for sale” or “tiny house for sale near me” on the internet, and on YouTube. Many people share pictures of their tiny house living on Instagram. Some of them are quite inspirational like @tinyhomiez, @thatgrackle and many others.

There are many tiny houses for sale, so you can choose and buy one. However, if you want to build your own tiny house, you need to find tiny home builders. Or you can start building your tiny house yourself and save half the cost.

First, you need to choose the floor plan of a tiny house that you like. There are tiny house floor plans for free that you can look through. Then you need to find a tiny home trailer. There are many tiny home trailers, both new and used. You can also build your own dream tiny house trailer.

How to choose a tiny house trailer?

Let’s find out the basics of a tiny house. Look for a trailer frame depending on the size of the tiny house you want. You can have a trailer of any size, ranging from 12 feet to 56 feet in length and up to 10 feet in width, or even super-sized 12-feet models. The 18 and 24 feet are the most popular models of tiny house trailers.

The standard deck height is 28 inches above the slope with an 8-inch box frame and 24 inches with 4-inch drop axles. In addition to the trailer plan, you can choose the design of the roof, doors, and windows of your tiny home.

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Choosing Your Unique Tiny House Shell

You can choose from a large number of spacious floor plans and designs with a larger kitchen, living area or bathroom, depending on how you prefer to spend time or the number of inhabitants.

Each Tiny House Shell comes standard with 4 windows and one entrance door, the location of which you can choose for yourself. You can add more windows or even a second door, or replace it with a set of French doors or patio doors. For windows, you can install standard vinyl windows with tempered glass double-glazing, or you can switch to sashes, awnings or even accordion windows (also called folding doors). These features are especially precious for those who love to get in touch with nature.

Once you have made construction plans, you need to decide where you will live in your tiny house. Once you have figured out your living location, you can also plan small outside storage, a recreation space, and other things.

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In Conclusion

When you start living in your tiny house you will gradually adopt a minimalistic and a zero-waste lifestyle. By adding solar panels and using less water, you will save on bills, gain financial freedom and save the environment. Your quality of life will improve significantly and become more relaxed, free from stress and more conscious. Your day will be much more enjoyable, and you will find more time for meditation, yoga or just walking in nature.

Updated 03/19/2020

Going Green: Energy-Efficient House Design

Many people dream of having their own energy-efficient houses.  It’s great to buy a house build using an energy-efficient design. However, you can make your existing home more energy-efficient, using energy-efficient appliances and step by step home improvements starting with small, low-cost and medium to large-sized.

Recent technological advances in building materials and construction technology make the process of building energy-efficient houses less challenging. This can be quite an investment but it the long run, it will save homeowners money on monthly electricity bills for many years to come.

In addition, energy-efficient house design will also benefit to house owner because such a home may be eligible for an energy-efficient or “green” mortgage.

Energy-Efficient Homes Features

Designing and building a new house or renovating an existing house to ensure high energy efficiency requires careful planning and attention to detail.

Most of the energy-efficient homes or net-zero homes have several features in common, such as solar panels. First of all, the entire house needs to be viewed as a whole system rather than looking at each part separately. The whole-system approach allows the efficient use of electricity, water, and minimizes waste and materials.

The energy-efficient design of the house is crucial but can only be fully implemented if it is complemented by energy-efficient appliances.

Well-known factors that make a house energy efficient are its framing construction, type of insulation, quality of windows, and heating and cooling systems. While each of these components is important, when used together, it is the most important component for creating a truly energy-efficient house.

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energy efficient house with solar panel roof
Black solar panel home. Image credit: Vivint Solar/Pexels

Energy-Efficient House Framing

House design and frame is a major factor in energy efficiency. While some houses are built using standard 2×4 framing, others are built using staggered 2×6 construction. Staggered framing methods allow for less continuous space inside the walls. When looking at house plans, be sure to consider the type of framing used.

It’s important to pay attention to a proper framing for electrical wires as a very important detail of the overall energy efficiency. Another important area to consider is the framing between trusses and walls as well as between the walls and the foundation of the house.

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Energy-Efficient House Insulation

The first step you need to take to maintain the energy efficiency of your home is to install high-quality insulation.

Isolation is most effective when blocking conductivity or heat transfer through an object. The extent to which insulation blocks conduction is called its thermal resistance value, or R-value. There are various types of insulation materials such as spray foam, fiberglass, and cellulose. Thus, the purpose of insulation is to stop thermal bridging and increase the effective R-value as well as eliminate air bridges and condensation.

In addition to the insulation R-value, there are many other types of insulation, including its resistance to air and moisture in the house. The higher the resistance of an insulating or building material to heat flow, the greater the resistance to heat flow. Usually thicker and denser insulation has a higher R-value and therefore better insulates your home.

A Cool Roof of an Energy Efficient House

A cool roof of an energy-efficient home protects against solar heat gain and keeps the house and attic space cool. Typically, cool roofs are made of low thermal mass materials such as tiles, slate, or clay which are reflective or have light-colored pigments that reflect the sunlight.

Several countries and cities around the world mandated green roofs or solar panels for new commercial buildings. Green roofs include anything from simple plant cover to a rooftop garden. Cool roofs improve indoor comfort, reduce energy losses, and extend the roof’s service life.

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solar panels
Solar panel roof home. Photo credit: Pujanak/Wikimedia

Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors

Windows and doors are another important part of the overall energy efficiency of the house. Windows and doors come in all types of qualities and are another way by which you can save a lot of money on utility bills over time.

When considering the different types of windows for your home, you should also consider whether or not they need to be opened as continuous windows can be more energy-efficient than sliding windows.

Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling System

The house’s heating and cooling system accounts for 48 percent of the energy consumption in a house and represent a major portion of a household energy bill.

Most homeowners recommend packages that not only reinsulate the attic but also clean the air ducts. Having clean air ducts improves the air quality and efficiency of the heating/cooling system.

The most efficient heating and cooling systems such as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) system, is 95 percent efficient. Other high efficient heating and cooling systems include VRF and variable speed HVAC systems.

Energy-Efficient Water Heating

Water heating accounts for 15 percent of energy costs and is one of the largest energy expenses in a home. You can use High Energy Efficient Water Heaters and save energy and money. There are several options for Energy-Efficient Water Heating such as a tankless water heater, a high-efficiency water heater, a high-efficiency heat pump water heater, and a high-efficiency solar water heater.

Tankless Hot Water Heaters 

Tankless water heaters do not store warm water like a traditional tank water heater and can use gas, electricity or propane. These heaters with energy efficiency up to 99 percent can save from 10 to 40 percent of heating costs.

Solar Hot Water Heaters

Solar water heaters can be used to heat water and save energy. They can be used as the main source for hot water or as a back-up to other nonsolar heaters.

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solar water heater
Domestic solar water heater. Photo credit: Wikimedia

Energy-Efficient Lighting

Lighting accounts for up to 15 percent of a home’s annual electricity costs, so it is important to ensure that lighting is energy efficient and well optimized. Energy-efficient lighting can only be achieved with simple and cost-effective strategies that will benefit you with lower energy costs and save the environment.

The most common types of energy-efficient lighting are compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and halogen incandescent lamps.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)

A CFL is a fluorescent light bulb that fits into a regular light socket. The CFL bulb burns cool and uses much less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb. However, the cons of the CFL is it may take a minute or more to reach full brightness and CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, which makes recycling difficult.

Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

LED light bulbs are the longest-lasting bulbs: they last 50 times longer than an incandescent bulb, 20 – 25 times longer than a halogen, and 8 – 10 times longer than a CFL. They contain semiconductors diodes that convert electricity into light. LEDs are about 90 percent more efficient than incandescent light bulbs, however, they are more expensive.

Halogen Incandescents

Energy-efficient Halogen bulbs are the least expensive energy-efficient lighting option; however, they do not have the longevity of LED and some CFL bulbs. Halogen incandescents have a capsule inside that holds gas around a filament to increase bulb efficiency. They are similar to traditional incandescent bulbs but use less electricity.

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solar panel roof house
A photovoltaic roof installation filling the entire roof. Photo credit: Roy Bury/Wikimedia

Energy Efficient Ventilation

The ventilation control of an energy-efficient home is crucial because of the air-tightness trap pollutants (such as radon, formaldehyde, and volatile organic compounds). It is important to install a ventilation system with energy recovery that controls ventilation and minimizes energy loss.

Proper ventilation can prevent bacteria and mold and keep your home dry and protected from damage, saving you money on expensive repair bills. Spot ventilation helps reduce water vapor and moisture, such as exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms, as well as natural ventilation.

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Alternative Energy Resources

The design of an energy-efficient home should strive to create as much energy as it uses by installing renewable energy options. These are solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, a wind system, or a small “hybrid” electrical system.

Renewable energy sources can save money and energy and maybe even eligible for Federal Tax Credits and local and/or national tax incentives.

The ultimate goal of an energy-efficient house is to achieve net-zero energy use. The design should also strive to comply with the Energy Star sustainability requirements, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, and the International Green Construction Code (IgCC).

Summing up, achieving these standards will significantly save owners’ money over the lifetime of the house, create a high degree of comfort, and ultimately increase the resale value of the house.

Updated 03/19/2020

Green Roof Buildings

Green roofs, or what is also called living roofs, are underutilized spaces in an urban environment, yet any landscape, garden or park can be installed on a building or structure. Over the past 30 years, green roof constructions have become part of urban architecture in many cities around the world.

Modern green roofs were first developed in the 1960s in Germany. In the course of recent years, roofs have turned into the focal point of quiet yet steady progress through the use of green roof technology in Europe. Cities such as Stuttgart in Germany and Copenhagen in Denmark are known for their many green roofs. About 20-25 percent of the roofs in Stuttgart are green and around the country 10 percent of green roofs. These successes were largely achieved through government incentives.

France Mandates Green Roofs

In 2015, France passed a law that mandated all new commercial buildings built in the country to be at least in part covered by green roofs or solar panels.

Marcel Sembat High School in Sotteville Les Rouen, France
Marcel Sembat High School in Sotteville Les Rouen, France. Source: https://inhabitat.com

The green roofs are turning into widespread constructions of buildings around the world. These types of green roofs have many interesting features, from lowering the maintenance cost to reducing stormwater runoff.

One of the main reasons why these roofs have become widely popular is their ability to minimize the urban heat island effect. According to research green roof can reduce the temperature of cities by 1-2 degrees Celsius.

Green roofs of Jean Moulin High School in Revin, France
Jean Moulin High School in Revin, France. Source: https://lostateminor.com

It is very important that properly planned green roofs can imitate natural processes. Thus, even the thinnest green roof can adequately absorb most of the rainfall, reverse the effects of urban heat islands and create a natural habitat for urban-dwelling animals. They also properly insulate structures, providing energy efficiency, extend the life of the roofing layer, increase the value of a real estate and significantly improve the urban design.

Gallery of Escape Bienvenue, France
Gallery of Escape Bienvenue, France. Source: https://www.archdaily.com

Green Roof Buildings in North America

While Europeans have been getting a charge out of these advantages for a considerable length of time, Americans have only recently started to grasp them. Toronto was the first city in North America to pass a Green Roof By-law in January 2010 that required green roofs must be incorporated into the structure of every single new building.

Green roof buildings in downtown Toronto
Green roof buildings in downtown Toronto. Source: https://www.daliform.com/

With the population growth, it is becoming increasingly difficult to discover green space in the city. Toronto is battling this with its recently delegated Green Roof by-law. Toronto City Council mandated by-law is an incredible achievement for green living.

“Toronto’s by-law provides a new opportunity to strengthen the emerging practice of integrated green building design,” said Steven W. Peck, the president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. “[It] breaks new ground on how to structure a mandatory green roof requirement.”

Vancouver Convention Centre green roof
Vancouver Convention Centre green roof. Source: https://dailyhive.com

Although the United States does not have nationwide green roof law, there are financial incentives and initiatives/programs that promote green roofs in many cities across the country, including Chicago, New York, Portland, and Washington. In addition, green roofs provide LEED certification, environmental remediation and extend the service life twice as long as conventional roofs.

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Chicago City Hall Green Roof

One of the world’s most outstanding green roofs is Chicago’s City Hall that is a mix of intensive and extensive green roofs. Finished in 2001, the rooftop garden was intended to test various sorts of green roof systems, warming and cooling benefits, achievement paces of local and non-local vegetation, and decreases in water spillover.

Chicago City Hall Green Roof
Chicago City Hall Green Roof. Credit: TonyTheTiger/Wikimedia Commons

The three systems coordinated into the plan incorporate lightweight soils at 4, 6 and 18 creeps top to bottom. These changing green roof systems are perceived individually as extensive, semi-intensive, and intensive green roofs. Soils were created utilizing lightweight soil blend rules created in Germany in the course of recent years.

Like every green roof, the City Hall rooftop garden improves air quality, preserves vitality, diminishes tempest water spillover and reduces the effects of urban heat islands. The garden’s plants reflect heat, give shade and help cool the encompassing air through evapotranspiration, which happens when plants discharge or come to pass water through pores in their leaves. The water draws heat as it dissipates, cooling the air all the while. Plants additionally channel the air, which improves the air quality by utilizing overabundance carbon dioxide to create oxygen.

The plantings are composed in a sunburst design, which regards the evenness of the memorable City Hall and gives an arrangement for organizing gatherings of plants over the three distinctive roof systems.

In total, the City Hall planted more than 3,500 species of plants and more than 150 species of animals in the 3,530-meter space.

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New York City Green Roofs

In New York City, there are about 730 buildings covered with green roofs. Although this represents only 0.1 percent of the city’s 1 million buildings, their number is increasing every year. The Javits Center has the largest green roof, while smaller green roofs cover private homes, schools, and farms such as Brooklyn Grunge.

New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Source: http://www.wc3design.com

The Javits Convention Center is home to NYC’s largest green roof, built-in 2014. The nearly 7-acre green roof features 14 different varieties of Sedum plants. The green roof reduces energy consumption by 26 percent and prevents about 6.8 million gallons of water runoff every year. In addition, the roof provides habitat for more than a dozen different species of birds.

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Green roofs help NYC combat the urban heat island effects, which are expected to worsen with climate change. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more Americans die from the effects of the urban heat island than from other natural disasters.

New York City’s goal is to reconstruct old pre-war buildings to improve energy efficiency in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. Local laws set carbon limits and heavy fines starting in 2024.

California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco
California Academy of Sciences. Source: https://archiscapes.files.wordpress.com

The introduction of this lightweight green roof construction technology is expanding worldwide as cities from around the world learn about the benefits of vast extensive green roofs. In 1999, the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities association was founded in North America, which has held annual Green Roof conferences since 2003.

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Thus, green roofs have great advantages for growing cities in combating the effects of urban heat islands, greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and providing a habitat for birds and animals. Green roof technologies are becoming more affordable and efficient. Cities with a growing population should become more sustainable and resilient to climate change and other challenges of the future.

What about the city where you live? Is it sustainable and has joined green roof initiatives? How do you want to see it in the future? Please leave your comment below.