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Green Roofs

Austin City Hall - Greenroofs.com
Austin City Hall
How The Chicago City Hall Green Roof is Greening the Concrete Jungle
Chicago City Hall

 

Rooftop gardens are becoming a popular amenity for fortunate city dwellers. Not only do they add green back into the concrete jungle, but they also provide a place to relax, garden, or simply view for personal pleasure.

As cities like Houston, Dallas, and Austin continue to urbanize, less and less available green space is available for vegetation. Roof top gardens are an excellent way to introduce plants back into the concrete-heavy landscape. One example of a city that is steadily being built up, is Austin. “Green Roofs have the potential to be an important tool and powerful symbol in fulfilling the City of Austin’s vision as a leader among sustainable cities,” Austin’s Green Advisory Group stated in their 2010 report. Not only do rooftop gardens improve the view from neighboring roofs, but they also offer economic and environmental benefits. Urban dwellers frequently lack access to green space, so green roofs subsequently provide an urban oasis and thus improve property value. Rooftop vegetation cleans and cools the air, and it also cools the building’s roof. As a result, energy use is reduced and air quality is improved. Another benefit is “life expectancy for cooler roof membranes under green roofs can be more than twice than expected for other roofs,” according to the Advisory Group.

Rooftop gardens may not make the most sense since plants need earth to grow; however, it’s fairly simple to accommodate the undergrowth. One example of a roof garden is the green roof on City Hall in Austin. Using special waterproofing and drainage layers, a 5-foot deep trench nourishes several live oak trees. The 12,000-square-foot roof sits atop an underground parking garage and offers a home to a native plant palate including agave, yucca, and prickly pear plants along with yaupon hollies, bluebonnets, black-eyed Susans and prairie coneflowers.

Rooftop gardens are beautiful and may offer many environmental benefits, however there are downsides as well. First, they require watering as any garden would. The difference between a rooftop garden and a natural garden on land, is the rooftop garden won’t have the usual moisture from deep in the ground. A caregiver of the garden will have to provide the water, especially if you live in Texas where a lack of rain has been common for quite some time now. Second, the cost for upkeep may be too much for the average homeowner.  In high heat and low rain areas, like much of Texas, the cost of water maintenance could be quite high. Another minimal downside we would like to address is the journey to the roof. Oftentimes roof gardens will only be accessible by a thin ladder. Those afraid of heights will likely not want to climb a ladder just to get to the roof. In cases such as these, installing a staircase or hiring a maintenance crew will be the best solutions if you still desire a rooftop garden.

 

Citation:

Saunders, Joshunda. “Green Roof Movement Grows Slowly in Austin.” Statesman.com. Austin America Statesman, 7 Oct. 2011. Web. 19 Oct. 2011. http://www.statesman.com/life/gardening/green-roof-movement-grows-slowly-in-austin-1901909.html.

 

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