Living Roof Design

Living roof design is a new idea to many people – it is a combination of construction, architecture, landscaping, and art. Living roofs may have several distinct purposes and the overall design and layout will depend on the homeowner’s most important goal for the space.

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Living Roof Systems

“Living roof design can be optimized to increase drainage or insulation, to provide an area for a vegetable or herb garden, or simply as a space that enhances a home’s overall aesthetic.”

Basics Of Living Roof Design

Living roof design will depend on the homeowner’s overarching goal for the space. Living roofs have either one or two layers of soil. The single layer roof is designed to offer good drainage and low maintenance for a sloped roof. Double layer living roofs have separate soil and drainage layers. They do well on low-sloped or flat roofs, as well as roofs that will be used as an accessible living space.

Factors Determining Living Roof Design

Underlying Structure
The size and shape of the home obviously determines the limits of the living roof design. Aspects of the lot such as shade, the angle of the sun, local weather patterns, and additional factors also have an effect. An often overlooked concern, however, is the structure of the home. Most living roofs are heavier than a traditional one and need more support. A typical living roof weighs approximately 7 lb per square foot for each inch of soil depth when saturated. If a roof is expected to be used as a gathering place, the weight of the guests must be considered as well. Insufficient structural support can cause the roof to collapse.

Bottom Line: Additional support and/or framework is often needed when placing a living roof onto an existing home.

Additional Considerations
Because every home and every family is different, there may be other considerations as well. Living roof design can incorporate many other needs. Endlessly customizable, the roof can be planted with nearly any kind of plant that will grown in the climate, to create a unique, useful, and attractive addition to the home.

Gardening Needs
While they don’t need the same roof maintenance as conventional roofing, living roofs certainly have their own set of maintenance requirements. Healthy plants need weekly attention. Weeding, trimming, fertilizing, and other needs will depend on the plants chosen. A thoughtful living roof design should consider the intended plants and their maintenance needs.

Bottom Line: The roof must provide safe and easy access for a gardener.

Define Yout Goals

Living roof design should always be based on the homeowner’s principal goal for the space. Some home owners simply want an environmentally friendly roof that requires little care and maintenance. Others may be looking for more living space. They will want a roof that is strong enough to support their activities, has comfortable and attractive spaces, and perhaps has an open area as well. Finally, some homeowners want to plant herbs and vegetables or other specialty plants.

Bottom Line: Living roof design must provide whatever access is need to care for the plants and for the homeowners and their guests to enjoy the roof.