Thursday, July 30, 2015

Our green roof in the news

Our green roof made it to the front page of the StarPhoenix on Tuesday. I'm happy with the way it turned out  despite the fact that I'm not looking in the camera in the photo. I was having a "oh look - a squirrel" moment but I don't think it's too obvious given the quality of the newsprint photo. Josh wasn't available for the interview, so that's me in the photo with our green roof consultant, Michael Molaro.

You can read the whole article here.  It's been shared 109 times on Facebook since Tuesday. It's great to see word getting out as I'd love more people to start building/planting them.

Today, Michael and I did another interview, this time with CBC Saskatoon's Eric Anderson. We recorded it for radio right up on the roof. While we were chatting, a bee came up and started poking around the sedum flowers looking for nectar  it was incredible to see the environmental benefits of the green roof in action. You can hear the interview tomorrow at 7:20am CST by listening live on the CBC Saskatoon website. 

The most frequent questions we get (from friends/family/media) are:
1. Where did you get the idea?
2. What made you decide to go ahead with it?

I've never addressed this on the blog, so here are my answers...

Where we got the idea:
I’m not sure when I first heard of green roofs, but I often watch a UK-based show called Grand Designs — it features some pretty elaborate new home builds and renovations. I saw a few episodes where they integrated green roofs into new homes. Europeans are much further ahead than we are here in the Prairies. They basically roll out a carpet of plants, much like you would roll out sod. That wasn’t an option for us — we manually planted each of the 700 plants we have on our roof.  

What really sold me though, was a photo I found on Houzz (a great website for building and remodelling design ideas). This particular photo (below) was of a home in Vancouver. The garage was behind the house, just like ours is, and it was covered in a variety of gorgeous plants. I noticed how the homeowners would have a great view of it from their second floor. 

We were in the process of building our house at the time (but hadn’t started on the garage) so I called Michael. Josh and I met with him several times to discuss logistics, materials and cost, and the rest is history.

Why we decided to proceed with it:
Our new home is an infill, and it replaced a very small bungalow with a big grassy backyard and a small shed. We built a larger house and xeriscaped the front and backyard (to minimize both maintenance and water use). In the backyard, we installed paving stones, with a some flower beds around the perimeter, and we built a two-car garage. By putting down the paving stones, and by building a larger home and garage, we added some impermeable surfaces that don’t soak up rainwater. We wanted to offset some of that by putting the green roof on the garage.

It’s great for the environment in that it minimizes runoff and, on top of that, it attracts bees and butterflies. It also keeps our garage nice and cool when it’s hot out, and will keep it warmer in the winter — the plants and soil act as a layer of insulation.

The other reason is pure aesthetics  — because the garage roof is sloped towards the house, we can see - and enjoy - the green roof from our kitchen on the main level and from the second floor.

It's important to note that a green roof does have a higher upfront cost than a traditional shingled or metal roof. However, if well maintained, there's no reason it shouldn't last 50 years or more. There isn't a lot of data on longevity, but the plants and soil provide a protective layer on top of the roof membrane, shielding it from the elements.

I'll end with a few inspiration photos that I had filed away when we were deciding on the design and layout of the plants.

This one is a close up of the Vancouver home above...

This photo is one my favourites. I love all the different shades of green it incorporates.

You don't have to cover a whole house, or even a whole garage — a shed is a great way to give it a shot and keep costs down.

I love the wild, untamed look of this roof. 

All photos via Houzz

Monday, July 27, 2015

Green roof update and some media attention

On Wednesday evening we climbed up on the roof to do a bit of weeding. I had taken the below photo last Monday, zoomed in on it, and noticed the massive weed in the bottom right corner.

We pulled a small bucketful of weeds. Some were trees-in-the-making, thanks to the ubiquitous Siberian Elm seeds, others were less obvious species -- I'm no weed expert. 

While up there, I was happy to see how many of the sedum were spreading. There are a bunch of little baby sedum, making their way into the world.

These ones remind me of little baby birds with their mouths open, waiting for a worm.

I love the teal/purple shades of these ones.

It's great to see all the beautiful blooms up close.

We're also excited to be sharing the story of our green roof with some local media. This morning, Michael Molaro and I were interviewed by a reporter at the StarPhoenix. Tomorrow, we're doing an interview for CBC Saskatoon. I'll share links once the stories are up!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Two gorgeous garages

Just a quick post to share two photos of two gorgeous garages...or at least, two small sections of two garages. The photo below was taken by Michael Molaro. It's a close up of the green roof on our garage. As you can see, we have some beautiful yellow blooms up there now, and lots of buds waiting to burst open. All the plants look healthy -- they're well watered and get a great daily dose of sunshine (when Saskatoon isn't full of smoke from the wildfires up north).

My dad sent me the photo below. It's the suite above my parents' garage at their cottage in Nova Scotia. It also has a kitchen, bathroom and closet. The finishing touches are going on right now. I can't wait to see it in person when I visit them in July. It looks like it belongs in a magazine, and that credit goes to my mom who designed and decorated the space. I love the colourful rug -- they picked it up on a recent trip to Tunisia.