A truly "green" roof

Here's a renovation that would set you back a pretty penny. We're not talking about a roof with green shingles; we're not just talking environmentally-sensitive, either. We're talking about a roof that is green because it's growing.

No kidding!

My weekend newspaper brought an interesting story on two environmentally-aware architects, Janna Levitt and Dean Goodman, who decided to experiment in building a house for themselves. Their solution to the high cost of air-conditioning? Not a conventional roof, but a roof built of terraced gardens.

Now, this is not for those who have sensitivities to heights. After all, like any garden, it does have to be planted. It may need maintenance to keep it working well. However, these folks aren't the first to have a garden roof. They worked with a fellow named Terry McGlade, who's been installing these things since 2000.

Apparently, the idea is very big in Europe, where the cost of retrofitting a building with air conditioning is astronimical, and makes the idea of a terraced garden roof quite appealing. Apparently, in Suttgart Germany there is more than 1 million (that's with an "m", folks) square feet of garden roofing. Stuttgart is serious about this too; in some parts of the city, such roofs are required by zoning law.

The appeal of this idea becomes really evident when the article mentions that you can actually reduce cooling costs by 85%. That's a pretty energy-efficient roof! In fact, the Levitt-Goodman home didn't even need air conditioning after the installation of their garden roof.

This is not a cheap reno, though. Costs are cited at $10 a foot or more. However, energy researchers indicate it only takes 5 to 10 years to fully pay back your up-front costs. Considering the payback periods on energy-efficient furnaces and the like, it's not a bad investment. In addition to your energy savings, the roof never needs to be "re-shingled". It's there to stay! Not only that, but the life of the building is extended because the roof isn't exposed to extreme fluctuating temperatures and damaging UV rays, so it actually lasts longer than a conventional roof!

Even more interesting, you can plant the roof in local "flora", and make it virtually maintenance free. So unlike the heart-stopping picture under the story caption, of a guy up on the roof replanting, you can use grasses, bergenias and hostas, and other hardy types of plants that only require tending for the first year or so.

That would be a necessity for me. I'm not a person who enjoys working at high heights.


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