by alan burchell & rubyana lyon  green roof
feb 26 2017

The History of the Green Roof

Image: Vincent Callebaut

Amongst the memes and cat pics on your social media feeds, you may have also seen pictures of futuristic or fantastical looking buildings utterly wrapped in greenery and topped with a green roof.  Such buildings are no longer, nor have they ever been, limited to fictional Tomorrowland or Hobbiton. Firstly, planted, green roof gardens have been around for thousands of years, the first being the Hanging Gardens of Babylon constructed around 500 B.C.  The green roof technology of today packs a high ROI and array of benefits for all types of building owners: commercial, residential, industrial and institutional.


Into the late 1800s, sod roofs were the most commonly used roof type on log houses in rural Scandinavia, as they were excellent natural insulators, keeping homes cool in summer and warm in winter.

Photo: Alan Burchell


The concept was overhauled in 1960s Germany making use of modern technologies resulting in systems vastly more efficient than their early model releases.  Since then, these ‘green roofs’ (a.k.a. eco-roofs or roof gardens) have spread to many regions of the world.



Image: Scientific American

What is a Green Roof?

The over-simplified answer is this: A green roof is a system of layers that are installed on top of a typical roof, to support soil and plant growth.

A further explanation of each layer and its function can be found below, but first let’s explore the answer to ‘Why Green Roofs?’


Why Green Roofs?

While still not yet as widespread as they are in Europe, green roofs are becoming increasingly popular in urban centers across North America and Asia, and many factors are driving this demand.

Green roofs are a veritable Swiss Army Knife of benefits spanning health, property values, quality of life, the economy and the environment.

Swiss Army Green Roof

Swiss Army Green Roof

And just like two people may be interested in totally different tools on the same Swiss Army Knife, different organizations and building owners are attracted to different benefits and features of green roofs.




To be continued…

Next Blog (Feb 28 2017): Intro to Green Roofs, Part 2 of 3: The Benefits for Building Owners, Occupants and the Rest of Us