Rooftop gardens are a wonderful way to transform the urban landscape into an oasis. Expensive cities like Chicago, New York, and San Francisco are also prone to air and noise pollution, resulting in lower air quality and causing health and environmental concerns. For commercial buildings, rooftop gardens are a way of bringing greenery into a sterile space. For residential properties with no backyard or that have limited space, a rooftop garden can be a solution and a way of providing a place to relax or to grow plants and vegetables to support a sustainable lifestyle. Landscapers are looking outside the box and figuring out ways to maximize green space as well as reduce energy consumption, discovering the multiple benefits of a green roof.

What are rooftop gardens?

Rooftop gardens are becoming more and more popular at home and abroad, with innovative green spaces bringing the natural environment into otherwise plain, sterile spaces. Rooftop gardens can be either vertical or horizontal, and allow residents or property owners to basically build a backyard atop their dwelling. The want for a rooftop garden can be purely for decorative or aesthetic reasons, or for practical purposes such as a space for a community garden, farming, or as an eco-friendly way to cool your home and save on energy bills.

How rooftop gardens are eco-friendly?

All urban areas such as cities with high-density living are essentially an urban heat island. Solar radiation rapidly heats up man-made materials commonly found in cities such as asphalt and concrete, resulting in a massive pocket of hot air. Cities are also prone to air and noise pollution, resulting in lower air quality and causing health and environmental concerns. Because of this, the use of energy for air conditioning and other cooling equipment have to work harder and for longer. This spike in energy consumption puts a massive strain on energy grids as well as power bills. One of the ways architects and landscapers have proposed to reduce this reliance on man-made energy is by introducing rooftop gardens on homes and commercial buildings. Rooftop gardens are an eco-friendly alternative to cooling the home or building because the shade offered by plants reduces heat flow and increases precipitation, resulting in cooler temperatures and improved air quality.

A study by the National Research Council of Canada found that an exposed roof can get as hot as 158F (70c) on a sunny day; while an identical roof covered with greenery and shade from a rooftop garden stayed relatively cool at a temperature of 77F (25c). In addition to providing natural cooling and reducing energy consumption and costs, rooftop gardens provide natural insulation, can absorb noise to provide a natural sound barrier, delay stormwater runoff, provide filtered rainwater, and also creates a habitat for important wildlife such as insects, bees, and birds.

Tips on installing your own rooftop garden

A rooftop garden can enhance your quality of life and is a great way to have a more positive impact on the surrounding air quality and the environment at large. A rooftop garden can also enhance the structural integrity of your building, home, or dwelling by providing natural climate control and protection from extreme weather. Installing your own rooftop garden begins by checking with your local council and regulations. In some cases, a rooftop garden may be prohibited or require special permission, so be sure to check before hiring a contractor. Once you have received permission, you can hire a contractor or a landscape architect to assess your building and whether the structure can hold a rooftop garden, and also inform of any size or weight restrictions. Once you have been given the green light, you can begin planning and designing your rooftop garden. Here are some important things to consider:

Temperature variants: Most roofs are subject to extreme variants in temperature and weather, including rain, wind, scorching heat, and snow. This causes the roof membrane to shrink in cool weather and expand in hot weather. This constant expansion and contraction can take a toll on your roof and shorten its lifespan. Rooftop gardens are therefore a great way to provide a natural barrier, regulating temperatures and protecting your building from damaging elements. An important consideration when installing a rooftop garden is to make sure your roof is properly waterproofed. A waterproofing membrane will prevent water from infiltrating the structure of your home or building and will maintain flexibility for the natural expansion of the roof. Waterproofing will significantly increase your roof and rooftop garden’s lifespan, preventing any damage caused by water and strengthening the integrity of the roof.

Plants: Choosing which plants to plant in your rooftop garden comes down to your overall preference or aesthetic needs. The right type of plants will depend on the climate of where you live and the exposure to harsh elements. Hardy plants are generally a great option since they are both attractive and durable. For a simple rooftop garden idea, you may want to plant a vegetable garden or potted dwarf trees such as citrus plants. Low maintenance plants are always a great option, needing little water or pruning making it easier to manage. Hiring a landscaper can help you to select the right plants for your rooftop garden.

Costs: The cost of a rooftop garden will vary depending on the size, design site, and construction materials used. Although the initial cost of installing a rooftop garden may be expensive, the long-term savings should be considered. A rooftop garden will reduce reliance on heating & cooling systems, and, if you’re planning on installing a vegetable garden, will reduce your shopping bill. Typical prep and maintenance costs such as waterproofing, drainage, and structural supports will need to be factored in, also. Generally, a small rooftop garden could cost between $150-$400 per square metre. This does not include additional costs such as permits, design fees, and additional elements stated above.

Whether you’re installing a rooftop garden for pleasure or for practical purposes, you will be rewarded with a marked reduction in energy consumption and power bills as well as an overall increase in quality of life. A rooftop garden may cost more than a traditional garden, but it pays for itself. The long-term benefits outweigh the initial costs of installation, providing an eco-friendly way of introducing nature into an urban environment as well as being a more sustainable option when it comes to high-density living.