Last week, Denver became the latest city to require rooftop gardens or solar panels on large new buildings, which backers say will keep the outdoor air cooler, make storm water easier to manage and in general lower the cost to cool a building’s interior.
“The world-class cities are realizing that roof space is an asset for the city’s residents and for the building owners, so they’re either requiring, or incentivizing or both the use of that roof space,” said Steven Peck, founder and president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities in Toronto.
Fortunately there are many books to help and inspire, including Rooftops: Islands in the Sky by Philip Jodidio, full of projects from across the world:
There are also more technical resources available, such as:
And more sharply focused books, for instance, what plants work best?
Among the Land Library’s favorite rooftop books are many that focus on farming in the city:
with lessons learned by urban farmers from Brooklyn to Vancouver:
If urban farming can develop a rooftop niche, why not beekeeping in the city?
“…cities can actually be some of the best places to keep a few hives. Unlike keepers living in rural towns, we city dwellers don’t have to worry about pesticides from conventional farms spraying their fields. Rooftop hives also get ample sun and dry out faster after heavy rains; the ability to more easily regulate temperature and humidity means bees with fewer diseases. But more important, at least from my point of view, urban apiaries give city dwellers an opportunity to commune with the natural world in a small but very profound way.” — Megan Paska
Who knows, Denver’s new experiment with green roofs might inspire homeowners across the Front Range to consider their own patch above their homes:
Small Green Roofs: Low-Tech Options for Greener Living by Nigel Dunnett, Dusty Gedge, John Little & Edmund C. Snodgrass — the first book to deal specifically with small-scale and domestic green roofs. This well-illustrated book profiles more than forty projects: sheds, garden offices, studios, garages, houses, bicycle sheds, and more.
Beyond the hobbit-like aesthetic benefits, the authors show how green roofs contribute to better rainwater management, cooling and energy conservation, noise insulation, and increased biodiversity:
“…flowering plants will encourage insects such as bees and butterflies to feed on the nectar. Seed-eating birds such as finches and sparrows will come in autumn and over the winter. Beetles, spiders, and other invertebrates will make their homes among the foliage. But it’s not just animals that are drawn in: green roofs can be havens for rare plants or for native plants that are typical of your region.”
“If there is one message to come out of this book, it is that making a green roof does not have to be a mysterious or complicated matter, nor does it need to be expensive. Most structures open themselves to some sort of greening.” — from Small Green Roofs
Of course, adding a bit of turf over your head is an ancient worldwide tradition. Here’s a lovely example:
Visionary Austrian artist and designer Friedensreich Hundertwasser created several buildings with rooftop garden/forests. Here’s what he had to say about green roofs:
“The true proportions in this world are the views to the stars and the views to the surface of the earth. Grass and vegetation in the city should grow on all the horizontal spaces, that is to say, wherever rain and snow falls vegetation should grow….I’ve worked a great deal with grass roots, putting soil on top and having things grow, but there is something strange in this, more than ecological. It is a religious act to have soil on your roof and trees growing on top of you — the act reconciles you with nature — a very ancient wisdom.”
Definitely NOT a small roof, but here is Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s Waldspirale (forest spiral), a residential complex in Darmstadt, Germany. Completed in 2000