A green roof or living roof is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. It may also include additional layers such as a root barrier and drainage and irrigation systems. Container gardens on roofs, where plants are maintained in pots, are not generally considered to be true green roofs, although this is debated. Rooftop ponds are another form of green roofs which are used to treat greywater. Vegetation, soil, drainage layer, roof barrier and irrigation system constitute green roof.
Green roofs serve several purposes for a building, such as absorbing rainwater, providing insulation, creating a habitat for wildlife, increasing benevolence and decreasing stress of the people around the roof by providing a more aesthetically pleasing landscape, and helping to lower urban air temperatures and mitigate the heat island effect. Green roofs are suitable for retrofit or redevelopment projects as well as new buildings and can be installed on small garages or larger industrial, commercial and municipal buildings. They effectively utilize the natural functions of plants to filter water and treat air in urban and suburban landscapes. There are two types of green roof: intensive roofs, which are thicker, with a minimum depth of 12.8 cm (5.0 in), and can support a wider variety of plants but are heavier and require more maintenance, and extensive roofs, which are shallow, ranging in depth from 2 cm (0.79 in) to 12.7 cm (5.0 in), lighter than intensive green roofs, and require minimal maintenance.
The term green roof may also be used to indicate roofs that use some form of green technology, such as a cool roof, a roof with solar thermal collectors or photovoltaic panels. Green roofs are also referred to as eco-roofs, oikosteges, vegetated roofs, living roofs, greenroofs and VCPH
Green roofs improve and reduce energy consumption. They can reduce heating by adding mass and thermal resistance value, also can reduce the heat island by increasing evapotranspiration. A 2005 study by Brad Bass of the University of Toronto showed that green roofs can also reduce heat loss and energy consumption in winter conditions. A modeling study found that adding green roofs to 50 percent of the available surfaces in downtown Toronto would cool the entire city by 0.2 to 1.4 °F (0.1 to 0.8 °C).
A concentration of green roofs in an urban area can even reduce the city’s average temperatures during the summer, combating the urban heat island effect.Traditional building materials soak up the sun’s radiation and re-emit it as heat, making cities at least 4 °C (7.2 °F) hotter than surrounding areas. On Chicago’s City Hall, by contrast, which features a green roof, roof temperatures on a hot day are typically 1.4–4.4 °C (2.5–7.9 °F) cooler than they are on traditionally roofed buildings nearby. Green roofs are becoming common in Chicago, as well as in Atlanta, Portland, and other United States cities, where their use is encouraged by regulations to combat the urban heat-island effect. Green roofs are a type of low impact development. In the case of Chicago, the city has passed codes offering incentives to builders who put green roofs on their buildings. The Chicago City Hall green roof is one of the earliest and most well-known examples of green roofs in the United States; it was planted as an experiment to determine the effects a green roof would have on the microclimate of the roof. Following this and other studies, it has now been estimated that if all the roofs in a major city were greened, urban temperatures could be reduced by as much as 7 degrees Celsius.