Portland is well known for the copious amounts of rain it receives every year. Maintaining healthy watersheds is important to both the short and long term health of our communities and waterways. One way to manage storm water runoff is with an ecoroof also commonly known as a green roof. The city of Portland has been a nationwide leader and an active proponent of ecoroof installations throughout the city.
According to the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services there are 566 ecoroofs in Portland that account for nearly 38 acres of green space. So what exactly is an ecoroof? A watered down explanation is plants growing on a roof lined with a plastic membrane. In reality the ecoroof systems are much more sophisticated. But the watered down explanation isn’t entirely off.
In November of 2013 I participated in the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services Green Roof Seminar. During this one day event we learned about advantages of installing an ecoroof, ideal applications and technical information regarding the construction of an ecoroof. This event was time well spent and certainly reaffirmed to me the upsides of an ecoroof. For any of you who have followed my landscape and garden pursuits know that ecoroofs are certainly a fascination of mine.
There are many advantages to installing an ecoroof. As already mentioned they help manage storm water by capturing rain, filtering and slowing the flow of water from the roof in a rain event into the sewer systems and streams. Also, on a standard impervious roof sunrays reflect off of the roofing materials causing a heating effect commonly known as heat island. But with an ecoroof the sunrays are absorbed and used by the plants as a part of the photosynthesis process. Furthermore the plants on an ecoroof absorb pollutants in the atmosphere improving air quality. Not to mention creating habitat for insects and birds.
From a dollars and cents perspective there are also advantages to installing an ecoroof. The depth of the soil on an ecoroof is generally 3”- 8”, this creates quite a layer of insulation and reduces the costs of heating and cooling a building. Moreover, an ecoroof generally lasts twice as long as a conventional roof.
Aside from the environmental and practical benefits, ecoroofs are quite beautiful. Generally they are planted with succulents such as sedum, or ornamental grass, and even different varieties of moss. In situations where the roof is visible from a window it can certainly improve the view. They soften the industrial footprint of our modern cities.
Ecoroofs have the biggest impact atop office and industrial buildings. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t work in a residential setting. It’s true that on existing home it can be quite an ordeal to retrofit a house to support an ecoroof. However the imagination is limitless and ecoroofs can make an ordinary awning or overhang incredible, liven up the roof of a garden shed, garage, even a doghouse, or if you’re like me make a birdhouse remarkable.
If you have thoughts of an ecoroof on your property contact Wheel & Barrow Landscape Design & Maintenance. We can look things over to see if your site is suitable for an ecoroof. Let’s make you then envy of all your neighbors!
Top photo of Ecoroof at OHSU in Portland Oregon. Photo compliments of Portland BES.