Rooftop Gardens: Green Roofs for Private Residences

Rooftop Gardens: Green Roofs for Private Residences

The pleasing fragrance of a fir tree, the play of sunlight on leaves, the sight of greenery silhouetted against a blue sky, the calling of birds….medical researchers say that these natural sights, sounds and scents can slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and lift your mood.

There’s no doubt that verdant green spaces, no matter how modest, enhance quality of life. And this holds true whether the natural area is at ground level or atop a roof 20 feet in the air.


In both Europe and America, the  green roof — also called the environmental roof, ecoroof, interactive roof, vegetated roof and living roof— is catching on as an ecologically-friendly way to protect your roof while benefiting the environment. Although more common on large commercial and residential buildings, green roofs can be increasingly seen adorning private residences, as well.  Toronto is the first city in North America to create bylaws  governing the construction of green roofs; in order to encourage their construction, the city offers grants of up to $10,000 for green roofs on single family homes.

Green Roof Design

In a green roof, a vegetation “blanket” is placed over the growing medium, which in turn is situated over a compartment that provides drainage, aeration, water storage and a barrier for the plants’ roots. Under the compartment is usually insulation, then roofing membrane, then the original roof substrate. Often, container plants can be integrated into the arrangement, as well. Vegetation does not need to cover the roof completely for it to be classified as “green.” Surprisingly, it is not necessary for the roof to be flat; green roofs can be installed on almost any pitch. However, the steeper the pitch, the more expensive the installation.

Benefits of a Green Roof

cuttingedge2A green roof can help to insulate your home, reducing energy costs by as much as 30 percent. According to the European Federation of Green Roof Associations, a study conducted in Chicago revealed that if all roofs in that city were greened, the energy savings would amount to $100,000,000.

Green roofs also absorb excess rainwater, filter noise, and increase the efficiency of solar panels. By reducing carbon dioxide, producing oxygen, and removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air, green roofs reduce air pollution. Finally, the plant life serves as a buffer to protect your roof from damaging ultraviolet rays, rain and ice.


Green roofs can be costly – even the most inexpensive types can cost from $8 to $15 a square foot – but have the advantage of being extremely long-lived. Green roofs can last up to 80 years, a life span rivaled only by the exorbitantly expensive (and extremely heavy) natural slate.

If you are interested in having a green roof, make sure you consult a roofing contractor who is experienced with them. You may also need to consult an engineer to determine the load your house is capable of supporting, and the pitch of your roof.


Types of Green Roofs

Intensive roofs feature a deep growing medium that supports a wide variety of plants and landscape design. They are built directly onto the substrate. An extensive green roof has a shallower growing medium, and requires less care; like the intensive roof, it is attached to the substrate. A modular system green roof involves plants that are pre-grown in trays, and then placed where the homeowner desires. Finally, pre-cultivated vegetation blankets consist of interlocking green roof tiles. The main plant is usually sedum, a type of attractive, hardy ground cover that can grow in many different climates.

With 26 years of providing quality roofing services to the Toronto area, we at The Cutting Edge Roofing pride ourselves on surpassing your expectations. We have experience installing green roofs; if you are interested in a roof that is beautiful, ecologically friendly and long-lasting, we are more than happy to help you create a “green piece of heaven” atop your house.

About The Author
Robert Landry is co-owner/partner of The Cutting Edge Roofing in Pickering, Ontario, Canada. Robert has more than 25 years’ experience in the commercial and residential roofing industry and has led the company to its current status as an award-winning roofing provider with a Best of 2012 Homestars Award in the Roofing Division. He is avid ice hockey fan and enjoys spending his free time with his family.

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