An Eco-Roofing System

March 31, 2016 - by Edsel Mynssen - in Building Envelope, Roofing, Technology

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The seventh ancient wonder of the world, the Hanging Gardens of Babylonmay be one of the world’s first documented green roofing systems, at least poetically if not literally. 

The Hanging Gardens have also been described as an engineering marvel as well.

Resembling a massive green mountain, the gardens built in a series of ascending terraces oriented similarly to an amphitheatre of mud brick. A large lake was most likely also situated at the bottom. This green roof design of 650 BC is said to have housed and fed hundreds if not thousands of people.

Whether The Hanging Gardens were of actual construction or a poetic creation with its origins regardless in ancient text, this green roof system was the premise of its glory; a technological concept that has made an impact for many societies in other regions in this great world.

The Sod Roof

Until the end of the 19th century, the world’s population was mostly an agrarian society. Many such communities employed green roofing systems to help regulate thermal conditions while maximizing rainwater and establishing uniformity.

In northern Europe, it was not uncommon for Scandinavian homes, and farm structures too also feature grass-covered roofs century after century. These green roofing systems known as sod roofs utilize local technologies of water-tight birch bark, indigenous grasses and tree logs. The vegetation is grown on top of the birch bark to keep it in place creating water and soil resistant roof covering.

This system is balanced not to be too heavy or too light so that the grasses do not face drought conditions or the roof load challenges the building structure.

Even today these systems are seen throughout the countryside as well as in some urban areas including churches, row housing and single-family dwellings.


Architects and Engineers

There are a number of modern-day builder architects well-known for their use of green roofing systems. The late Architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, considered the father of the green roof, must be mentioned. Hundertwasser utilized green roofing systems in virtually all of his architectural designs. By just googling his name hundreds of images of his buildings are featured in many blogs, articles and web pages as seen below:


Known for refusing to draw a straight line, Hundertwasser also created eco-cognizant designs devised to stand out so society would be inspired and embrace the environment with modern living as a cross-cultural symbiotic co-existence. Featured all over Europe, South East Asia, New Zealand and North America, Hundertwasser left his indelible mark.

And as eclectic as Hundertwasser’s creations appear, a green roof may also bring calm through soft aesthetic appeals as well. The swirling green of the School of Art, Design and Media at the Nanyang Technological University is such an example. 


 in inhabitat.com put it so succinctly:

“This five-storey facility sweeps a wooded corner of the campus with an organic, vegetated form that blends landscape and structure, nature and high-tech and symbolizes the creativity it houses.”

To learn more about this amazing building, please see this website for more composite information related to the engineering and architectural team, the building’s rationale and its overall societal impact.

Cooler Climates

Green roofs are considered high performance roofs also in Canada. In fact Canadian experts are world recognized for advancements in green roofing systems as well as promotion of policy in building codes and government auspices that help facilitate this concept.


A green roofing system in Canada ultimately will lower cooling costs by 50 to 90 per cent while minimizing rainwater run off. As installation and maintenance of run-off systems are costly, this is an added advantage. Green roofs will also help create carbon sinks that remove carbon dioxide over-accumulated in the atmosphere. Additionally green roofing systems reduce the urban heat island effect as the vegetation cools temperatures by sheltering the building elements that normally absorb heat from the hot sun.

This system is not the answer for every building owner and as it is often a retrofit. Therefore it is wise to work with experts in plant material as well as building structure, wind uplift and hydrology. A roofing consultant is undoubtedly a must!

To learn more on this subject, please see this small selection of Canadian professionals who are recognized within the building industry and Canadian environment for their knowledge and expertise:

Advanced green roof technology: http://www.zinco.ca/

Live Roof: http://www.liveroof.com/

Alberta: http://www.landstewardship.org/green-roofs/


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Edsel Mynssen

Edsel Mynssen

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