As people are becoming more aware of the urban heat effect on climate change, creating green roofs by adding plants to the top of your building is one solution that’s gaining popularity.
According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a green roof is essentially a “vegetated roof cover with growing media and plants to take the place of traditional roofing materials such as shingles or tiles.”
Benefits of such an undertaking include improving air quality, adding shade, providing insulation which can lower electric bills, and reducing water runoff that can flood our streets after a storm. LBJWC research suggests that buildings with green roofs can actually be up to 80 degrees cooler than adjacent buildings with traditional roofs!
Our own city has jumped on all the possible benefits, and Austin City Hall was actually recognized for a 2008 Award of Excellence by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. The roof of City Hall is covered with plants native to Texas, including mountain laurel, agaves, yuccas, and prickly pears. Award wording says “As a project Austin City Hall combines depth of vision with practicality of execution and so sets a superlative example for government and institutional building owners.”
Before you jump on the bandwagon and start tearing shingles off your roof to create your own green garden, University of Texas recently completed a study showing that not every company that sets up green roofs create them equally. The study hopes to help manufacturers know what they need to do to make all potential benefits a reality.
The study suggests that, if you hire a contractor to build a roof for you, make sure you specify exactly what benefits you’re interested in and the type of native plants you want. Hopefully the impact of this study will grant validity and credibility to the idea of green roofs.
Next time you walk by City Hall, be sure to look up!