Green roofs just look so cool, don’t they? Ever wonder what it would take to install one? On The Washington Post’s real estate blog, Where We Live, a D.C.-area homeowner is sharing the fascinating challenges and rewards associated with going green.
A biologist and environmentalist, Annette L. Olson had long been familiar with green — or living — roofs before considering adding one to her 1915 rowhouse. She decided to take the plunge when she learned that her leaking porch roof needed to be replaced.
As Olson explains in her first post, a green roof typically consists of “low plants in a growing medium (not soil). A drainage system, a root barrier and a waterproofing membrane sit between the plants and the roof deck.”
Among the major benefits: “Green roofs absorb water when it rains, helping control stormwater runoff.” Because of that, many cities, including D.C., provide a rebate to offset some of the cost.
The roofs also provide insulation, often resulting in a reduction in energy usage. And let’s not forget, they just look really cool. “My main reason,” Olson writes, “is that I want to look out my bedroom windows at something green and living, not asphalt.”
While far from common, green roofs are becoming more popular in the United States. The D.C. area installed a nation-leading 800,000 square feet of green roofs last year, double the amount in 2010.
As with most eco-friendly home projects, cost is a common obstacle preventing more homeowners from seriously exploring living roofs. Olson’s initial estimate for a traditional roof replacement ran from $3,000 to $5,000 (depending on what kind of water damage was found). The green roof would run her about $8,500 — a big difference, to be sure.
But, she notes, green roofs can last 30 to 60 years longer than a traditional roof.
And have we mentioned how cool they look?
(Photo via flickr user jimbrickett)