Here’s Why You’ll Want a Living Green Roof on Your Home

A green roof, also known as a grass roof or living roof, is a growing trend. Architects and designers have cleverly figured out how to put down roots in the most expected of places — over your head!

Most rooftops are an eyesore or simply boring. And in an urban environment, they’re wasted space. But a living green roof solves all these issues by being visually stunning, expanding your outdoor square footage and adding an eco-friendly element. Here’s a roundup of some of the most beautiful green roof ideas and reasons why you’ll want one on your home.

This rooftop blends in with its green surroundings. Edible herbs and lettuces are grown throughout the year. Image: Feldman Architecture

Why a green rooftop is a great idea

A landscaped or grass roof has many advantages, if you plan it correctly. Depending on where you live and the water needs of your area, you can choose plants that handle lots of rain or ones that tolerate drought. The key to selection is to find plants that don’t have aggressive roots that can damage your rooftop (like bamboo).

A green rooftop absorbs heavy rainfall and reduces flooding. It also extends the life of a roof by protecting it from the elements. Most importantly, green roof designs insulate a home or building, reducing the temperature inside. Major cities can benefit from living roofs to combat the heat they create, called heat islands.

According to the EPA, city buildings are made of concrete and cement that trap the day’s heat. This heat can raise the temperature of a city “as high as 22 degrees more” than a nearby rural area. This increases the need for air conditioning and electricity, contributing more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

A green rooftop in a high-rise improves air quality by cooling its surroundings, decreasing greenhouse gases. Image: Zinco Living Roofs

Living roofs insulate buildings, cooling the city overall and decreasing air pollution. The city of Portland, Ore., has embraced the grass roof trend by offering an ecoroof program that gives incentives to builders that add living roofs to buildings and homes.

Green roof ideas

The Dutch Biesboch Museum has a grass roof that creates the illusion that the stark glass buildings are jutting out of the earth. Image: Biesboch Museum

Creeping vines coming from the green rooftop soften the hard edges of this tropical contemporary home. Image: Daniel Koh

Drought-tolerant living roofs

River rock and drought-tolerant grasses and shrubs add interest to this mid-century modern flat roof. The garden can be enjoyed from the rooms on the second floor. Image: Feldman Architecture

Colorful-foliage plants are framed by a gravel border to create a living roof that needs little rain or water. Image: Natural Balance Home Builders

A shed’s flat roof was turned into a rooftop garden featuring succulents planted in geometric patterns. Image: Paradise Restored

A low-water green roof is far more attractive of a view than an ordinary rooftop. Image: RAAarchitects

Urban green rooftops

A jungle rooftop in hot and humid Singapore cools the outdoor area considerably. Image: G8A Architects

A green living rooftop in Beirut beautifies the grey urban environment. Image: Green Studios

A sprawling urban campus in France was built with endless waves of green rooftop. Image: Arch Daily

Colorful green roof designs

Even a small overhang can be converted into a green roof. Image: C&H Architects

Colorful shrubs and flowering plants add a striking design effect to a contemporary home. Image: PBW Architects

This green roof features local wildflowers that bloom in colorful shades. Image: Prentiss Architects

Grass roof designs

An imaginative contemporary home in Singapore, called the Sky Garden House by GUZ Architects, features two levels of grass roof. Image: GUZ Architects

Wild grasses that grow at different heights and textures soften the angular design of this small, contemporary house. Image: McCoubrey Overholser

This grass roof absorbs up to 80% of the rainfall, helping mitigate erosion and flooding. Image: Rusticasa

The garage and guest house provided the perfect rooftops to create grass roof living gardens. Image: Maienza Wilson

Half grass roof and half skylights create a bright and eco-friendly glass house. Image: Flavin Architects

Grass was added to this Miami home’s rooftops to enhance the ocean views. Image: Strang Architecture

The grass rooftop helps this modern home blend in with its forest environment. Image: Folio Design

Green rooftop garden ideas

You can add some green to a rooftop deck by adding plants into the openings and surroundings of your deck. Image: Spore Architecture

Raised beds and boxes can add the green roof effect to a rooftop garden or terrace. Image: Town and Country Gardens

Adding a sitting area or some wood deck tiles to a green roof adds living space to your living roof. Image: Recover Green Roofs

Adding a living roof isn’t as complicated as it seems. If you’re curious about how to add a green roof, check out Dwell Magazine’s green roof DIY tips.

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