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Sustainability and all the things green that go with it have become deeply rooted in our country’s culture. It is no longer just a movement, but a responsibility felt by many, especially as the means by which to live a more sustainable life become more accessible.
Still, it is often hard to distinguish a best practice from a gimmick when it comes to sustainable methodology. Seemingly all aspects of conventional life now have an eco-friendly alternative, from furniture to flooring.
One of the more curious, though, is the process by which homeowners are transitioning their roofs into earthy engines of sustainable. But is there truly a viable upside to a green roof and is the cost to benefit ratio as favorable as advertised.
In this article, we put the proposed benefits to the test and analyze the expense of green roofing to fully inform on the environmental options for your home.
A green roof is a natural covering for your existing roof comprised of grasses, plants, and lichens. The likely concern is over the potential for leaks, and rightfully so!
After all, plants need water to survive, and water is the sworn enemy of the traditional roof. For this reason, the process by which roofs are made green is slightly more complicated than one might think.
It is more than just a light soil bed and some ground covering plant seedlings. The existing roof must be waterproofed and outfitted with a root repellent and drainage system.
Once the original roof is treated, a filter material is laid across and covered with a growing medium. Finally, the plants are brought in and nature is left to do what nature does.
In our exploration of green roofs we have considered both the environmental benefits and those that directly affect you, the homeowner, in a positive light.
The upside for mother earth is that you will be doing your small part in bolstering the natural life cycle and elemental exchange inherent to photosynthesis. You might be thinking, is this 2000 square foot contribution really enough to justify the headache and cost associated with any home renovation process?
We will lay out the pros that affect your bottom line directly, outside of those that appeal to the environmentalist in you, and let you be the judge.
✓ Green roofs add an extra layer of insulation over the roof of your home. For the homeowner, this means a few things. First, the natural insulating properties of your roof’s new greenery allow for less insulation elsewhere, like at the roof line and in the attic of the house itself.
You can also decide to keep existing insulation after your green roof has been installed, which would make sense if you are adding to a structure your family has called home for a good while. A home with even fair insulation, plus the addition of a green roof, could save the occupants a great deal of money in energy costs.
This efficiency upgrade is not marginal, either. One study shows up to 25% overall savings on cooling costs in summer months.
✓ The added insulation has some other happy consequences like its ability to further cancel noise that otherwise wraps at your shingles, going bump in the night. This might not necessarily inspire all readers to pull the trigger on a green roof install, but in some neighborhoods, like those located near airports, it is all homeowners need to hear.
✓ The green roof can also be a perfect choice for those seeking a little aesthetic variety for their homes. Many of America’s neighborhoods can often feel a little cookie cutter, and all over the country, homeowners seek ways to set their property apart from the rest. The green roof offers unique curb appeal that is unmatched by small attempts at breaking the mold.
✓ The green roof requires drainage as a fundamental part of the installation process. As a result of this innate quality to divert water, your green roof has little need for conventional gutter systems and storm drains, which can be both cumbersome and unsightly.
Calculating average costs for green roof installation may be difficult to do and depends on many factors. The size and accessibility of the roof, the types of plants, and even cost of labor in the particular region of the country where your roof will distribute fresh oxygen are all factors that must be considered.
For instance, a more intricate plant pattern, or more exotic plant life for your roof can be more costly than simple plant life to be outfitted on a very large roof. Additionally, the structural integrity of your roof must be assessed. If the framework that comprises the roof’s peaks were poorly built, and thus cannot sustain the added weight of plant life, your costs will increase dramatically.
As a rough estimate, the average cost for green roof renovation projects in the U.S. range from around $50-$75 a square foot. All in all, for a raised ranch style home whose roof can be as vast as 1500 square feet, the numbers could become a bit frightening. That said, it is not dramatically different than the cost of a new shingle roof layover, and the return (in the form of energy saving) may negate that initial install cost.
There are also maintenance costs associated with domestic green roofs. Plants must be upkept and invariably die if they are not, in which case they must be replaced.
As you can see there is much to think about when pondering over a new, green roof for your home. Here, again, is a brief summary of those factors and their variances:
Measuring these variables against the specifications of your home is vital to your ultimate decision. We hope this guide serves you well on your journey towards full sustainability in conjunction with the health and happiness of your household.