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Is a Green Roof Right for Your Home?

Few homeowners get excited when it’s time to consider roof replacement. But what if you were picking out plant colors instead of shingle colors? Green roofs are trending in construction this year. What constitutes a green roof, and is it really a roofing option for residences? Here’s an overview of this eco-friendly design element.

Green Roof Basics
Green roofs, also known as living roofs, use vegetation rather than traditional roofing materials. Similar to raised beds, this type of roofing uses a protective layer beneath the soil to contain roots and prevent water leakage. There are three types:

  • Extensive green roofs use between 3 and 6 inches of topsoil and grow smaller, drought-resistant options, like succulents, grasses and herbs. It’s lightweight and low maintenance, making it a good fit for the average homeowner.
  • Semi-intensive roofs usually require a growing depth of 6 to 12 inches of soil to hold ground cover, grasses and small shrubs.
  • Intensive roofs need more than a foot of soil and feature more plant diversity. These are more appropriate for commercial buildings.

Living Roof Benefits
Along with adding personality to a home, this eco-friendly option serves as another layer of home insulation. The vegetation promotes heat retention in the winter and keeps the roof 10 to 20 degrees cooler in the summer. It provides some sound insulation as well.

Green roofs put water runoff to good use while reducing greenhouse gases and the heat island effect experienced in urban areas.

Potential Downsides
Installing a living roof is best left to the pros. And though it’s a rising trend, building codes can lag behind, creating a potential permitting issue. The initial investment in a green roof can be steeper than a traditional roof, but the longevity of a living roof may alleviate the upfront cost.