Choices – Living Roofs

A little over a year ago, I wrote about the best kind of roof for Central Texas, Metal!! Metal has reflective qualities, is recycled and recyclable and great for rainwater collection and solar energy collection. However, I am changing my opinion for some cases to another kind of roof…Green!

Green and living roofs have come a long way. Yes, I am talking about plants on your roof! When you think of a green roof, you might imagine building your home underground and mowing the grass on the lawn of your dirt roof. Or you might think of the Ford assembly truck plant in Dearborn Michigan with the largest green roof in the world!

But you might not consider a green or living roof on a conventional home with a typical sloped roof for either a new home or retrofit. It’s not just for extreme homes or large warehouse type commercial buildings! This company is making it easy! LiveRoof has created a modular and economical installation that is fully green the day it is installed.

So, why a green roof? A green or living roof will shade and protect your roof from the sun’s UV rays and other elements that can degrade the materials over time, so it is long lasting compared to a composition shingle roof. The shading and cooling qualities of the plants also keep your roof and attic cool. Additionally, plants transpire which create humidity for evaporative cooling and improved air quality.

A study done in Chicago on the Chicago City Hall building is interesting to note. The city hall side of the building has a green roof and the other side over the county offices has a tar roof. On each side of the building, weather stations are in place to monitor the differences between the 2 sides. One August day with temperatures in the 90’s, the difference in temperature between the green roof and the tar roof was 50 – 70 degrees! The heat from the tar roof will radiate through the night contributing to the heat island effect. Imagine having green roofs on all the city buildings in Austin! How much cooler downtown would be!

The LiveRoof system was developed by a horticulturist who has studied the best kinds of plants and soil for this application. The soil is very light weight and is predominately composed of high quality inorganic aggregates. When installed, the roof is instantly green because modules are grown by selected growers off site and installed by certified installers. The plants are typically drought tolerant succulent type plants and selected to be appropriate for the climate in your region. The plants seldom need additional watering but can be installed with an irrigation system. The rain that falls on the green roof is 99% absorbed so there is little water that is run off unless we have a typical Texas gulley washer. There is little need for maintenance because of the cushioning and shading qualities of the plants. There is currently not enough study to know exactly how long your green roof will last, but they speculate it could be more than double the typical composition shingle roof.

The LiveRoof grower for Austin is Texas Green Roofs in Lindale, Texas. Ed Borger says that there are 20 affiliate growers around the United States for the Live Roof system. I asked Ed if he had ever had any problems with nesting animals. He said that at the last Live Roof conference, they did discuss that issue but there have not been any reported problems of that nature. He did say that it is a good idea to walk around your green roof every couple of weeks, especially during the big growing season, to investigate problems or pull weeds from seeds that might blow onto your roof. Contact Ed at 800-777-9849 for more information about the LiveRoof system.

I also asked Ed about what the process is for installing a green roof on an existing home. He referred me a LiveRoof certified roofer installer for our area, Charlie Glaze with A.D. Willis Co. Inc. Charlie says, “Retrofitting a garden roof onto any building should begin with a engineering study, to determine whether the existing structure can handle the additional weight. The weight of the LiveRoof system is 27-29 lbs. That’s over a ton for every 10ft by 10ft area.”

Charlie also recommends removing the shingles from your home and replacing them with a waterproof membrane. This would remove some of the weight from the structure. With a sloped roof, install a “cleat system running horizontally across the slope of the roof” to keep the system in place. Charlie says that you have more water runoff with a sloped roof, but he has seen green roofs on pitches at steep as 6:12. This might be a little extreme, but it gives you an idea of what can be done.

Whether you use LiveRoof system or more traditional green roof methods, Charlie recommends attending classes on the subject or employing the services of someone educated in all aspects of the subject. The wildflower center is a great source of information. He also recommends that native local plants will work best in any green roof situation. Contact Charlie Glaze at (512) 385-3993.

Some great applications of green roofs for homes would be a combination of metal and live plants, especially if you have tree cover on some areas of your roof. On a particular hot area on the west side would be a great place for the green roof, and metal in other areas so you can collect solar energy and rain water. Green roofs are also really great on a patio or other outdoor areas for a cooling effect on your outdoor living.

Austin is a Green city that we are proud of. But when we look around at other parts of the country and the world, we see that we are far behind cities like Chicago and countries like Germany who are encouraging and in some places requiring a certain percentage of green roofing.

Green Living Tips!

This tip comes from my very own Mom!! I welcome inspirations from your home to put into future newsletters. Email them to me; Cammi Klier. Thanks!!

Tip by Vicki Jurica:

My bathroom sink stops up periodically, and I really do not like to use chemicals because our house is on a septic system. So I thought…I will try a small little plunger and see if that works. I purchased a small plunger [which also happened to be green in color..most fitting] and tried it on my bathroom sink. There are a couple of things you will need to do when you “plunge” a bathroom sink…..

1. Put a washrag in the sink’s overflow drain to keep it plugged while you plunge

2. Hold down the stopper while you plunge so that the drain will not close while you are plunging.

3. Then plunge!!!

It works very well! I am amazed at how easy, inexpensive, and “GREEN” this was.