A Brief Guide to Living Roofs

At PRQ Exteriors, we like to stay up to date with all major developments in the roofing sector. In recent years, living (or green) roofs have become an increasing trend found in major cities around the United States - but what exactly are they?

What are Living Roofs?

Living roofs are a style of roofing in which a layer of vegetation is planted above the traditional roofing, creating a visually stunning effect in which your home, business, or apartment appears to be spontaneously sprouting living plants.

The reasons for installing a living roof can be varied, but property owners often seek them out as either a cosmetic improvement to their building or as an eco-friendly way of dealing with excessive rainfall.

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What are the Benefits to Living Roofs?

When deciding what kind of roof to install on your home, business, or other property, it's important to consider all of the pros and cons before making a costly financial decision. Fortunately, modern green roofs come with a myriad of amazing benefits to you, your community, your home, and your wallet.

Energy Efficiency and Conservation

One of the major benefits to homeowners and other property owners offered by living roofs is their ability to efficiently insulate properties in both the winter and summer. Living roofs have been shown to work extremely effectively in preventing heat loss from buildings in the winter, and they also prevent the building from absorbing too much heat in the summer. Not only does this save your pocketbook in the long term, it can also help offset carbon emissions created by electricity usage.

Additionally, living roofs can be beneficial for the environment in terms of providing a habitat for some species which might otherwise struggle to survive in urban environments. Providing planted areas can help attract birds, bugs, and other small animals and improve the biodiversity of your neighborhood, even in heavily populated metro areas!

Stormwater Management

Living roofs are also excellent for stormwater runoff management, which can be a huge plus in regions that experience heavy rainfall. The soil or other planted substrate absorbs the water when the rainfall is high, which slowly gets absorbed by the plants' root systems over time or gets released into the air via evaporation. This can prevent stormwater systems in your city from becoming overwhelmed and reduce the impact of potentially dangerous flooding events. Additionally, planted areas can act as filters on some pollutants, making the rainwater cleaner.

Aesthetic Improvements

While all homeowners have different architectural preferences, there is something universally appealing about thick, healthy, green vegetation. Studies show that human beings are naturally calmed by seeing the color green, and exposure to plants can also have a soothing effect. This holds especially true for planted roofs in areas in which residents may not have frequent access to greenery and nature, such as in densely-populated cities. That bright pop of green plant growth might be just what you need to add a calming, modern vibe to your home! 

Increased Roofing Membrane Durability

Green roofs can significantly improve your roof's durability by adding an extra layer of plants and substrate to protect it. Research shows that green roofs have a lifespan that is almost three times longer than that of their original material. This makes intuitive sense - that extra layer of material provides not only protection from physical damage that might come as a result of hail, debris, storms, and more, but it also absorbs UV radiation that might otherwise age your roof. This can save you time and money in the long-run - your property can remain intact for much longer than one with a traditional roofing system!

Implementation of Urban Agriculture

Living roofs provide an opportunity for urban areas to not only cultivate ornamental plants but also crop plants for food and other purposes. In urban areas which experience food scarcity and food deserts, these practices can help to increase the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables urban dwellers have access to. Additionally, it offers a new location for social gatherings and services like community roof gardens, which can help bring neighborhoods together.

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Are There Drawbacks to Living Roofs?

Like any roofing choice, the choice to go green may come with a few disadvantages that are important to bear in mind as you make your decision to upgrade your roof or not.

Large Initial Costs and Upkeep

The price of getting your roof converted to a green roof can be somewhat steep, at least upfront, though depending on your expenditures the roof may pay itself off in energy usage reduction. On average, they cost around double the amount of conventional roofs, which might just be too much for homeowners who are only interested in roofing durability or aesthetics.

Additionally, depending on the type of green roof you've installed, there may be maintenance and upkeep costs down the line. Some common costs include roof inspections, fertilization, weeding, or other landscaping to keep vegetated roofs looking healthy and attractive.

Adding Lots of Weight to Your Roof

A major downside to living roofs is the amount of extra weight they place on a building. You are, after all, putting many pounds of substrate, plants, and water on top of a structure. Some buildings just cannot support the strain of extensive green roofs, so it's crucial to have an inspector inspect your property to determine whether or not your roof can bear the load.

FAQ’s About Living Roofs

Below are some of the most common questions surrounding living or green roofing systems.

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What is the Urban Heat Island Effect?

The urban heat island effect is a phenomenon in which the dense concentration of buildings, pavement, asphalt, and other heat-absorbing surfaces in urban areas significantly raises the average temperature of the area. This can cause massive energy consumption, environmental harm, and also medical complications such as heat stroke.

A green roof system can help offset this effect by deflecting heat and releasing moisture into the air, cooling off these urban areas experiencing heat waves.

Do Living Roofs Leak More than Traditional Roofs?

The idea that living roofs leak more than traditional roofs is a long-held myth. It perhaps makes some amount of sense that people think that - after all, the plants and substrate are bound to absorb some of the water from rainfall and retain, whereas traditional roofing systems push water away.

The likelihood of springing a leak in your roof has to do with your roof's installation as well as with its maintenance over time, not necessarily the style of roofing. Regardless of roofing style, it is imperative that you have a well-waterproofed roof or else leaks will eventually happen!

Can Anyone Implement a Living Roof?

Unfortunately, not all buildings are suitable for a green roof design. These roofs can add structural stress onto a building, so unless your home or business has been evaluated and has been shown to be able to support the weight, you may want to be wary of making the leap to a living roof.  

PRQ Exteriors is a Leading Colorado Roofing Contractor

Living roofs can require some expertise to properly install, so it's important to work with a contractor who is experienced, friendly, and highly skilled in order to prevent issues with your roof down the line.

Fortunately, PRQ Exteriors is a leading roofing contractor in Colorado, with plenty of excellent client experiences to account for that. Our team of contractors will be happy to work with you to get your new roofing style installed quickly and expertly for a fair price.

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