Green the new 'hip' roof The Columbus Dispatch

Green the new 'hip' roof The Columbus Dispatch

Plantings, not shingles, gaining favor as cover for houses

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By By Jill Laster THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH Tuesday August 11, 2009 4:30 AM

LIVEROOF pThe carport of a Cambridge, Mass. home is topped with a LiveRoof./p Request to buy this photo ‘ class=»> View Slideshow Request to buy this photo LIVEROOF

The carport of a Cambridge, Mass. home is topped with a LiveRoof.

Green: the new ‘hip’ roof -

Central Ohioans looking to add a garden to their homes have a new option from builders: the roof.

Green roofs use plantings on top of water-resistant membranes to lower energy costs, deflect heat, extend the life of the roof, reduce storm-water runoff and absorb noise.

Demand for the roofs is growing across the United States. More than 3.1 million square feet of green roofing was installed during 2008 in the United States, a 35 percent increase from 2007, according to Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, an industry association. Although green roofs are most common on businesses, homeowners are starting to take notice.

In central Ohio, several companies are selling green roofs, including LiveRoof, GreenGrid and Green Roof Blocks. No local homeowner has installed a living roof yet, but they say they have had an increase in callers both in central Ohio and nationwide.

"I think it’s part of an increased awareness of our impact on the planet," said Kelly Luckett, president of Green Roof Blocks of Florissant, Mo. "Green roofs are just a small part of that.

Aesthetics play a role as well. Jeff Salisbury and Christine Plepys of Newport, Ky. added a green roof to their new garage three years ago because they wanted something pleasant to look at from their porch.

"The first summer, before we put (the green roof) on, we could see the heat rising off the roof," said Salisbury, 43, who purchased the roof from Green Roof Blocks. "Now, you can see the plants up there, insects and bees collecting pollen, and birds. It’s really nice."

Central Ohio’s first LiveRoof-topped home made its debut last month at the Parade of Homes in Dublin. Builder Kevin Knight said the roof has piqued the interest of buyers, with several in talks to order one.

"All clients, all people, want something different," Knight said. "This is different. It’s been a little bit of an experiment, but it’s been good."

Like all roofing systems, green roofs consist of different layers to protect the home. Although those layers differ from system to system, green roofs use a waterproofing layer, a drainage system, a growing medium and plants.

Two main types of green roofs exist: extensive and intensive. Extensive green roofs are less than 6 inches deep, making them lighter, less expensive and lower maintenance; the plants typically include flowering herbs and certain grasses and mosses. Intensive green roofs are deeper and more expensive but have more plant options.

The time required to install a green roof differs by company and by the size of the roof, but typically it takes less than a day. Some companies install already-grown plants.

A green roof could potentially more than double the cost of a traditional roof, bringing it up to $15 or more a square foot.

Owners might also have to pay to reinforce their buildings to carry the additional weight, which can be 15 to 50 pounds a square foot. Although some commercial structures are built to hold extra weight, almost no homes are; an architect must assess whether a home can be retrofitted.

But green-roof sellers say that the expense is recouped in the long run. LiveRoof says its product can reduce indoor temperatures 6 to 8 degrees during warm or hot weather and reduce air-conditioning costs 25 percent to 50 percent in single-story buildings.

A properly maintained green roof is expected to last 40 years or more, although green roofs have not been popular in the United States long enough to track their durability. In countries such as Germany and Finland, green roofs have been in use for more than 75 years, with examples still intact.

"It’s something that pays for itself and pays for itself over a long period of time," said Nick McCullough, co-owner of McCullough’s Landscape and Nursery in New Albany, a LiveRoof installer.

Maintenance on a green roof includes the traditional elements of a roof checkup, such as regularly inspecting for damage.

Green-roof owners will also need to do the sort of maintenance required of a lawn: trimming as needed with a weed whip or lawn mower and watering during drought. Kentucky homeowner Salisbury said that for the first six weeks, their 340-square-foot garage roof required watering every few days. Now, the couple waters the roof only during long periods without rain. They weed it about twice a year.

Because it is a garage, Salisbury and his wife have not noticed any savings in home energy costs. Their biggest concern when they purchased the roof was an attractive space.

"I think people really enjoy it as opposed to having an asphalt-shingle roof," he said. "It gives them something nice to look out on."

When a home or business owner wants a green roof, he or she should consider factors such as roof accessibility and aesthetics, said Steven Peck, president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. Typically, a green roof must have a slope of no more than 15 to 20 degrees, although green roofs have been built at steeper angles.

Linda Craig and her husband, Jim, wanted to add something special to the garage roof of their Kirkwood, Mo. home. They decided to add 250 square feet of Green Roof Blocks around the edge of the roof.

Although they haven’t seen any energy savings, Craig said she and her husband have enjoyed the addition. After installing the roof last year, the Craigs watered it for the first few months but haven’t needed to since. They’ve also had to weed the roof two or three times.

"It takes care of itself," Craig said. "It’s really no maintenance at all.

"We’ve been really happy that we did it."

"I think people really enjoy it. It gives them something nice to look out on."

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