a contribution to improving urban environmental quality

Green roofs or residential roofs are roofs in which vegetation replaces conventional building materials. What advantages and potential does it offer for improving urban living space?

Living roofs or green roofs are spaces in which concrete or sheet metal surfaces have been replaced by spaces filled with grass. The aim of this article is not to go into the technical aspects of their construction (for this we recommend the book “Green roofs. Execution, planning, practical advice” by Gernot Minke), but to focus on the advantages that they offer conditions for environmental services and the potential solution they offer to some urban problems.

Firstly, they are extremely efficient structures in terms of energy consumption. A well-made residential roof lasts virtually forever and requires no additional maintenance, eliminating the expense of money and materials for maintenance; Once it is established and the right plant species and substrate have been used, it doesn’t even need to be watered. Its insulating properties prevent heat loss on cold days, significantly reducing heating requirements. During hot periods, it keeps rooms cool by preventing the sun’s rays from directly affecting the building structure.

By retaining stormwater and slowly releasing liquids that exceed their capacity, they relieve strain on often-collapsed stormwater drainage systems, reducing the risk of flooding that is common in some urban areas. On the other hand, they help control humidity by evaporating water on dry days and condensing dew on humid days, which can also help reduce thermal amplitude. The leaves of herbs not only trap moisture, but also retain dust particles and airborne pollutant particles.

Living roofs reduce heat in cities

The so-called “heat island effect” (a phenomenon that occurs in cities where the temperature is sometimes up to 10 ° C higher than in surrounding rural areas, as the asphalt absorbs heat during the day and releases it at night) could be achieved by the installation of Green roofs can be significantly reduced by reducing the exposed surface of thermo-absorbing materials. Anyone in the city of Buenos Aires can test this phenomenon with a night visit to the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences.

Of course, the sequestration of carbon dioxide (the gas responsible for the greenhouse effect) and the release of oxygen is another advantage of these roofs that should not be overlooked, considering that most cities in the world have a deficit of green spaces that their Offsetting emissions, and if you take into account the energy waste involved in lawn care (mowers, petroleum-derived agrochemicals, etc.), the few existing parks end up becoming sources of emissions. Living roofs, if left unmowed, can accumulate much more carbon than a landscape that is regularly mowed.

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At the level of species conservation, these roofs allow us to restore degraded or disappeared environments (think of the practically extinct grasslands of the Argentine Pampas region, today replaced by monocultures, urbanizations and industrial parks), which is why we must pay particular attention to their use herbaceous plant species native to the region in which we live (which are also adapted to the region’s rainfall regimes); This also benefits local wildlife, which can find food, rest and shelter in the areas currently closed to them, and there is also the possibility of creating green corridors that serve as communication between natural areas. In this way, birds and insects (especially butterflies) would receive the support they need during their migrations.

Although some authors do not recommend it, green roofs could serve to develop urban agriculture, especially for vegetables with low root development and some aromatic herbs. However, we must remember that residential roofs are just that: roofs, and while they offer much more than a traditional concrete, tile or tin roof, their primary function is purely structural.

Another comfort benefit, aside from how warm or cool they can be, is their ability to insulate from outside noise.

There are currently draft laws to implement green roofs in Toronto (Canada), Mexico and Colombia. In some European countries, although there are no laws, there are regulations that establish some parameters that must be taken into account to ensure building safety by schools of architecture. Some laws aim to force construction companies to include a certain percentage of residential roofs on every new construction, which has already put several companies on the defensive, either because of increased construction costs or because of a known reluctance to do so. to new paradigms and the comfort or distrust of academics in the construction field.

Living roofs, greener cities

Specifically, the studies available so far indicate that at least one in five roofs in cities would have to be green in order to bring pollutant levels to desirable levels. It will be challenging for the authorities to deal with these events and it would be an extremely positive gesture if they start landscaping public administrative buildings.

On an individual level, anyone who can undertake this endeavor in their own home will be happy that they are doing good and relieved that they no longer have to worry about leaks. Those who are part of a vertical real estate consortium can also address the issue and make a proposal to their neighbors or at least raise expectations about the possibility of transforming a terrace that no one visits into a useful corner for nature and the environment. urban environment. www.

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