Thousands of rooftops worldwide soak up the sun’s energy. We’re wasting away this powerful renewable resource. Wouldn’t it be great if we could use neglected city rooftops to capture energy and even utilize this energy to power buildings? One solution is to convert the unused rooftops above apartment and commercial buildings into “green roofs”. Each roof would be covered in plants, trees, shrubbery, and more. It could either be intensive – with walkways, benches and trees used as a garden retreat for the people in a building. Or it could be extensive – a smaller layer of growth that requires little maintenance, for rooftops that are not accessible.
What are the benefits of a green roof? There are plenty of environmental and cost benefits, as discussed below.
- Most urban areas are covered in rooftops made of asphalt or black tar. Heat radiates off the dark roof, causing overheating. Plant-covered surfaces cool the building by providing natural insulation and preventing solar heat gain. The vegetation and soil also improves air quality by keeping the air temperature stable, capturing airborne pollutants and filtering noxious gases
- With a green roof, there’s also less need for an expensive and complex draining system. The vegetation reduces the amount of storm water runoff by filtering and absorbing rainwater that would otherwise plunge down into gutters and into polluted streets.
- On to costs! A green roof reduces energy costs by providing natural insulation. This means less of a need for air conditioning during the summer. They also last twice as long as conventional roofs because they protect the roof membrane from harsh weather and UV rays.
The 2011 Solar Decathlon project by the NYC team also addresses the issue of underutilized and neglected roof space in urban areas. They designed a “solar roof pod,” a dwelling that resides on the roof of a building and captures energy from our most abundant natural resource: the sun! Not only does it provide additional living space for crowded cities, it captures rainwater and excessive solar heat. It does everything a green roof does, in addition to providing enough energy and infrastructure to power an entire building with electricity and hot water, and someone can live in the fabulous, modern dwelling! View more information on the Solar Roof Pod here