Victoria Araj3-minute read
UPDATED: June 08, 2023
Have you ever visited a green roof? I recently did for the first time in the Chicago area, and I was so inspired by its beauty. A green roof is a rooftop that’s used to grow plants, vegetables and other vegetation, typically in a city environment.
I wanted to learn about the benefits of having green roofs in urban areas, so I called on an expert who installs green roofs. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Molly Meyer, the CEO and founder of Omni Ecosystems, which designs and installs green roofs and green walls throughout the Midwest.
Molly, who invented a patented roof drainage system, says that green roofs are becoming more popular nationally and internationally as businesses and homeowners embrace eco-friendly practices.
“In the past five years, we’ve seen a steady amount of growth and interest in green roofs,” she said. “There are so many things that most people still don’t know about green roofs.”
Here are six benefits of green roofs that are worth sharing.
If you’ve ever owned a home, you know that the layers of your roof degrade over time due to exposure to ultraviolet radiation and extreme temperatures. Changes in temperature cause roofing to expand and shrink, damaging roofing and shingles.
“Green roofs provide protection from Mother Nature’s elements, and double the lifespan of a roof,” said Molly. “Additionally, they provide absorption and proper drainage for storm water runoff.”
Green roofs are known to last from 30 to 50 years – much longer than conventional roofs.
Green roofs provide a creative and beautiful way to use a space that would typically go unused. In the same way that a vacant lot can be planted and beautified, green roofs, too, add aesthetic value to a community.
Molly said gardens and farming spaces provide healing effects by infusing elements of nature into our environment. Nature often provides a quiet, restorative getaway and inspires people to be creative.
“Studies indicate that green roofs provide many health benefits to a community,” she said. “In addition, green roofs replicate natural ecosystems with a large variety of plants, flowers, grasses and wildlife.”
Few people realize that green roofs can reduce a building’s energy usage and lower utility bills for property owners. They add insulation in the winter months and provide shade from the heat.
“A typical black roof can absorb about 150 degrees in peak summertime, while a green roof typically gets to 100 degrees,” Molly said. “I’ve also read studies that show how green roofs can reduce an air conditioning bill by up to 25%.”
She said a green roof can keep a building 4% to 6% warmer and dryer, too, since the soil absorbs water that would otherwise run off. Green roofs are installed with water management systems that help lock in moisture. Through evaporation, the water system creates a cooler climate on the green rooftop.
Many people are surprised to learn that green roofs generate jobs, from design and construction to the maintenance of the roofs. These jobs include surveyors, watershed maintainers, engineers, scientists, landscapers and manufacturers. Farming roofs in particular create jobs for local farmers and even beekeepers, as these roofs require more upkeep than traditional green roofs.
Green roof-related jobs, particularly in cities with favorable weather year round, are growing along with the popularity of the green roof market.
“More and more, I’m seeing design firms and construction firms that specialize in creating roofs and walls,” said Molly, who created her Chicago-based company in 2009. “I’ve also begun seeing firms that specialize only in green roof maintenance.”
Green roofs support local food production and urban agriculture. You can grow crops, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices on a green roof. And, the local farming of green roofs helps minimize the carbon footprint of restaurants and food businesses that would otherwise get their food shipped in by refrigerated freight truck or plane.
“There are a myriad of possibilities for more food production if property owners rented their roofs to farmers to grow food,” she said. “In the last three months, we’ve seen an increase in farming roof requests. This may be because we offer partnerships [with the property owners] that bring the local farmers to their roof sites to maintain [the roofs].”
Green roofs clear dust, soot and other pollutants from the air. The many plants consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.
“I think people forget about all of the benefits that Earth does for us,” Molly explained. “We take for granted the clean air that we breathe, but this is actually a service that forests and plants provide for us.”
There are more benefits to a green roofs than meet the eye. Beyond the above benefits, they change the urban landscape and continue to inspire a new generation of city dwellers to appreciate having green space. If you know of other green roof benefits, please share them below!
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