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[Introduction]  [History]  [Extensive Greenroofs]  [Intensive Greenroofs
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From the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the modern aesthetics of Le Corbusier’s “New Architecture,” integrating nature into the urban fabric has always been a very desirable amenity and design criteria for city dwellers and architects alike.  The original inspiration for contemporary greenroofs came from rugged Iceland, where sod roofs and walls have been used for hundreds of years. The sod roofs soon became popular throughout Scandinavia.

Church in Vidimyri, Iceland (Magnusson, 1987)

Source:  A Showcase of Icelandic Treasures, Magnusson, 1987

This Icelandic architectural style originated from a lack of natural resources, so people had to make do with the local materials of sod and stone (Magnusson, 1987).  Roofs were usually completely turfed over and the thick walls of the structures contained bottom layers of stone followed by specially cut blocks of sod alternating with strips of thin turf.  Whenever possible, driftwood was included for timbers, as is the case in the church at Vidimyri, one of the six so-called sod churches that are still standing in Iceland, shown at left.  Built in 1834, it has been preserved as a monument and still functions as a parish church.


Photo by Nancy Marie Brown

Farmhouse in a historical park in Iceland
Source: PSU article by Nancy Marie Brown


Farmhouse in Holar, Iceland (Magnusson, 1987)

Source:  A Showcase of Icelandic Treasures, Magnusson, 1987


The old farmhouse complex at Holar, Iceland, right, was replicated in the latter half of the 19th century with sod and stone, but it has preserved very old timbers, some dating back to the high Middle Ages.  Old timbers were always recycled whenever found in good condition.

ReNatur Extensive Greenroof on Residence in Norway

Source: ReNatur© 98 Brochure


Greenroof technology originated in Germany over 30 years ago, and greenroofs have become quite popular throughout Europe, mainly due to their positive environmental impacts.

An opinion poll of the European Economic Community countries, published in La Libre Belgique, named the environment as the primary European concern, even ahead of unemployment, poverty, and insecurity.



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