Green Roofs

Are you considering a green roof for your container conversion but want to learn more about green roofs (also sometimes called earth roofs, living roofs or sod roofs) before making any firm decisions?

Green/earth roofs have been around for centuries- just look at the many and varied sod roofs across Europe, around since Viking times.

There were good reasons they were used then, and why they are regaining popularity now.. energy efficiency being the primary driver!

Green roofs - fishing huts in Norway

Why Go For an Earth Roof?

The reasons that you might consider a green/living roof are

  • Improved insulation – big reduction in cooling and heating
  • Aesthetic appeal
  • Low maintenance
  • Added appeal and real estate value for future purchasers of the property

Potential Drawbacks

  • Initial cost in structure and waterproofing to achieve a roof with sufficient strength to support a living environment
  • Planning – getting it through planning regulations- certain areas have stricter planning laws

Here 's a good example of a small container conversion with an earth roof.

Types of Green Roof

You may be aware of different types of plantings that can be done on living roof systems, but perhaps don't know that they actually have different names.

They are:

  • Intensive roofs– more like a park with small trees, shrubs – accessed as an enjoyable outdoor area

  • Extensive roofs– designed to be self sustaining – only accessed for maintenance – shallow growing medium 50-200mm

  • Comprehensive roofs – best of both worlds – variety of plants but with a minimal soil depth and weight

Most popular are extensive roofs, with a nominal amount of soil and self sustaining plants which are very low maintenance.

A shipping container roof will be flat thus some drainage will need to be built into the system, so a closer look at the detailing of the layers, as well as whether box gutters would be required.

Generally there are 7 layers to an earth roof

  • Waterproofing membrane
  • Root barrier – polyethylene sheeting
  • Insulation (optional)
  • Drainage layer – aggregate, drainage mesh
  • Filter fabric – geotextile
  • Growing medium
  • Vegetation – shallow rooted for an extensive roof

A couple of other points to consider are;

  • The Climate Zone
  • Orientation
  • Irrigation

There are several planting styles that you can go for, sedums are a popular choice, although they may not be indigenous to your area so a further look at locally growing species would be worthwhile, as would a check of other green/earth roofs in and around your area. 

The success of green extensive roofs relies heavily on careful plant selection, and orientation will also factor into the choice of plants. Many green roofs have extensive exposure to sun (and little shading), and are difficult to access for watering, so drought tolerant species are usually required.

If you have created your own functioning green roof, I would love to hear from you!

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