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The Keys of Effective Green Roof System Designs

If you're looking for ways to shrink your ecological footprint, you may already have taken a look at the idea of installing a green roof. This is a valid option for both residential and commercial buildings, and you might be surprised at just how flexible modern green roof systems are. Whether you want a full-fledged rooftop garden or just a little living cover overhead, there's a green system designed to meet your needs.

Intensive Vs. Extensive Roofs

Green roofs come in a variety of different types, but the single biggest division in the field is between the "intensive" and "extensive" roof. The names refer to how much growing - and maintenance - the roofs require. An intensive system offers you a thicker growth medium, allowing for a wider variety of plants including productive fruit and vegetable species. Intensive roofs are much heavier and cost more to install and maintain, though.

Extensive green roofs are designed to deliver all of the benefits of a green roof aside from gardening space. These include reducing water runoff and insulating your building from heat, cold, and noise. These roofs are thinner and lighter, require less maintenance, and can be installed on a variety of surfaces. Their abilities to retain water, grow larger plants, and insulate your building are not as strong as their intensive cousins, though.

Drainage Considerations

How a green roof drains excess water is one of its most important design considerations. Most extensive roofs trap a small amount of precipitation, enough to keep their plants healthy. Intensive roofs have deeper beds of growth medium (e.g. soil), leading to increased water capacity and a greater effect on the amount of storm runoff your building generates.

Beneath your roof's growth medium, drainage will typically be provided by installing either granular drainage layers or some form of pre-fabricated plate or board system. Granular drainage is loose and difficult to install, but it traps more water and keeps plants healthier, especially during low-precipitation seasons. Green roof systems are under laid by an impermeable membrane designed to prevent either moisture or plant roots from entering the fabric of the building.

Modular Systems Available

Because of the rising interest in reducing environmental damage throughout the developing world, green roofs are becoming popular in many different countries. In order to meet this need, many experienced builders and manufacturers are encapsulating their know-how into prefabricated green roofing systems you can install with a minimum of fuss.

Modular green roofs are typically based on interlocking plates or trays that provide a ready-made drainage and ventilation structure beneath your plants. Many manufacturers sell these modules in both a filled and unfilled state, allowing you to get a living roof installed immediately or to take your time with your planting selections.


Although building up a green roof "from scratch" is always a viable option, you can save a lot of time and money by looking at some of the outstanding pre-designed systems that are available today. With the benefits of thirty years of modern green roof experience, today's manufacturers deliver an efficient and affordable product that can take a lot of the hassle out of greening up your roof.

For other ways to help the environment, please check out the following article in the Guardian -