A green roof is partially or completely covered with vegetation and soil. The vegetation is planted over top a waterproofing membrane. This roof may also include layers such as a root barrier, drainage, and irrigation system. These roofs perhaps have experienced the greatest surge in popularity in the last few years.

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A green roof has many advantages. It improves a roof’s insulation value, lengthening its life and saving on heating and cooling costs. The plants act as a sound barrier. The soil helps to block low frequencies, and the plants block high frequencies. Most roofs soak up the sun’s radiation and re-emit it as heat. In cities where there are many buildings close together, the temperature can be as much as 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than surrounding areas. A green roof combats this heat island effect.

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Many of the advantages have a positive impact on the environment. Green roofs provide a natural habitat for insects and animals. They can be an oasis in the middle of a huge city where migratory birds and other wildlife stop and rest awhile. Plants improve health and lower diseases such as asthma by filtering pollutants and carbon dioxide out of the air. Green roofs manage storm water runoff. They can retain up to 75% of the water, gradually releasing it back into the atmosphere through the natural process of condensation and transpiration while keeping the pollutants in the soil.

There are two types of green roofs, intensive and extensive. Intensive roofs have a minimum depth of 12.8 cm (5 inches). Because they are thick, they can support a larger variety of plant life but also require more maintenance. Extensive roofs range in depth from 2 cm (0.79 inches) to 12.7 cm (5 inches). Although they are not thick enough to support as much vegetation, they require minimal maintenance.

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