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

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