Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Roof Gardens - A Cool Lifestyle In A Hot City


During the height of the summer the streets of London can become unbearably hot and sticky. You long for an ice cream or a cool drink and somewhere shady to sit and catch a breeze. For the lucky residents who have access to a flat roof there is now an important alternative solution. More and more home owners are building roof gardens or green roofs to help them live in style during the hot weather.

Although there are examples from the earlier part of the 20th century, it was not until the 1960’s that the use of roof gardens began to literally grow upwards. As well as having an amenity value, a roof garden offers substantial environmental benefits - for instance:
  1. It can lower the temperature above a building, often substantially. Basically a city can raise the atmospheric temperature by reflecting sunlight - a phenomenon sometimes referred to as 'the urban heat island effect'. Having a green roof helps counteract this.

  2. Insulation - a roof garden can help keep a building cool in summer and warm in winter, so fuel bills are reduced.

  3. Wildlife - even on high rise apartment blocks a green garden can provide a stopover for tired birds and attract insects with plants.


If you want to enjoy the lifestyle which comes with a proper roof garden there are 2 choices:

The “Heavyweight” Route
This involves layers of waterproof membrane, constructing drainage channels if needed and then laying natural turf over the top. Of course, you could venture into hydroponics to try and minimise the weight and there are special soil mixtures available to help but basically you are looking at a lot of weight , a lot of installation work and possibly even strengthening the roof.

The "Lightweight" Route
Use planter pots, tubs and bedding to carry your plants and lay artificial grass. This way you will have less maintenance and the whole project will be easier to construct. Not only that, but all the worries about how you compost grass cuttings 10 stories up won't even cross your mind!

Many city dwellers are already doing this with the likes of Lord Linley setting a headlining example when he had artificial grass installed on the roof garden of his central London residence.

So next time you are trying to catch a breeze in a hot dusty city, look up .... you'll probably see beautiful roof gardens offering a cool solution to a busy city life.