What Can Green Roofs Do for Our Cities?

Green roofs are different than a traditional roof. Installers cover the roof with a waterproof membrane, then add soil and vegetation. The added vegetation to city buildings comes with many benefits, including environmental, economic, and social benefits. Green roofs cost more upfront and require maintenance, but they give back much more in return.

Green Roofs Manage Stormwater

Cities are terrible when it comes to stormwater absorption. All the concrete and asphalt prevent water from penetrating the ground and cause flooding. The increase in water can also disrupt sewer systems. Green roofs provide a place for stormwater to be absorbed, and it provides part of the maintenance that keeps the plants alive. The plants will then release water particles back into the atmosphere and clean the air.

They Reduce the Effect of Urban Heat Islands

This release of water into the atmosphere cools the air around it. This reduces the heating effect in cities known as urban heat islands. The concrete and asphalt that makes up a large part of cities absorb heat during the day, making them several degrees warmer than the surrounding rural areas. They continue to release heat at night, which keeps the city from properly cooling off. Having the natural cooling effect of more vegetation will prevent cities from getting too hot.

They Conserve Energy

Plants cooling our cities will also lead to less energy being used, especially when it comes to cooling the buildings. Lower temperatures will lead to air conditioning units not working as hard in warmer weather, thus conserving energy.

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Image Source: Unsplash

They Increase Biodiversity

Green roofs provide habitats for more animals, especially birds and insects. This will increase the city’s biodiversity and the number of animals. City landscaping will no longer displace animals and insects, but provide a place for them to thrive.

They Increase Human Health

Researchers have proven that exposure to plants and greenery increases mental and physical health. Green roofs also act as a place for the public to be outdoors and enjoy themselves. Plants are also able to purify the air and will help clean up the air pollution that affects our breathing.

They Last Longer

According to the General Services Administration, green roofs are expected to last twice as long as traditional roofs. They are more durable and less likely to suffer damage that calls for replacement.


Unfortunately, not all buildings can support the weight of a green roof on top of it. A structural engineer (you can find one at an architectural firm) can tell you if your building is structurally sound enough to have one. If having a green roof is not possible, buildings can cultivate vegetation on the ground around it, and there are also white roofs that reflect light and heat up and away from the ground. Whatever it is that we can do to introduce more vegetation to our cities, we will be grateful later when we are not melting from the heat trapped inside.

Image Source: Flickr

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Lacey Jolley

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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