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ReNatur Garden House

Photo Source: ReNatur© Stauden Brochure

Greenroofs, eco-roofs, nature roofs, or roof greening systems are living, vegetative roofing alternatives designed in stark contrast to the many standard non-porous roof choices.  Their greatest potential lies in this capacity to cover impervious surfaces with permeable plant material.

Greenroofs help to invest in the protection of our environment by diminishing developmental impact on our communities while providing a fresh approach with visually appealing organic architecture.  Here is a potentially ideal architectural union of aesthetics, economics, and ecology.

Ecology is generally defined as the study of the interactions among organisms and their environment (Dramstad, et al, 1996).  In part, the current environmental crisis is the result of design failure to consider the health of human communities or of ecosystems.  "Thinking ecologically about design is a way of strengthening the weave that links nature and culture."  (Van der Ryn and Cowan, 1996).  In man-made/man-disturbed ecologies or landscapes we can mend, minimize, and ameliorate the design, ultimately restoring these landscapes (Westmacott lecture, 1999).  Greenroof ecology is certainly a new area of interest, and can be viewed both as an independent ecosystem and as an interrelated connection to a local ecosystem.   Greenroofs are the products of natural forms and materials and by mimicking nature, their function produces natural processes: they represent a living dynamic system.

Factory by ZinCo

Photo Source:  ZinCo International Brochure 3/98

By utilizing the process of integrated design, we can assess the attributes of a site and create buildings and developments that heal rather than harm the environment.  Greenroof structures can become net producers of energy, clean water and air, as well as part of healthy human and biological communities. Mutually dependent factors such as soil make-up, ground water, topography, microclimates, existing vegetation and land use together combine to create our livable environments, and we can incorporate these site- specific elements to create a unique greenroof.  The same set of beneficial landscape ecological principles can be applied to all greenroofs, whether constructed at the scale of a garden shed or a 40,000 m2 factory.

Instead of replacing the natural environment with the built environment, we should strive for an intermingling of the two so that each can help sustain the other. Building rooftops, usually considered forgotten spaces and deserts in biological terms, now represent valuable opportunities for creating a new life environment. The basic philosophy of greenroofs applies sustainable “green development” techniques to support our human and natural communities and development while remaining economically viable for owners and users of a site.


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