People all over the world have used vegetation material to cover the roofs of their houses for centuries. Thatching is the craft of covering a roof with materials like straw, water reed, sedge, rushes and heather. The United Kingdom has more thatched roofs than any other country in Europe. Ever wonder what former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s ancestors did for a living? The traditional material used in England is wheat straw which can actually last for about 50 years. This compares with a lot of more modern roofing
materials. Thatched roofs do require a little maintenance and usually have another layer of straw put over the original when it starts to get weathered. Preservationists have found original layers of thatching material that is over 600 years old. Thatched roofs don’t catch fire any more easily than a traditional roof, but they are more difficult to extinguish. In modern applications, the sub-roof underneath the thatch is usually covered with a fire retardant material. That way the straw on the roof burns off without spreading to the house below. This might make a spectacular display for the neighbors in the dead of winter, but it is not recommended.
Now there is a new type of roof made with vegetation materials that is catching on in the United States and recently here in the state of Missouri. In May, the third annual Greening the Heartland was held in Kansas City, Missouri. One of the topics of discussion in formulating a green scorecard for the state was the emerging popularity of “Green Roofs.” Greening a roof is simply using soil and plant material to cover the outer layer of the roof, where tile or other roofing materials have been traditionally used. There are a variety of methods and plant materials used depending on the slope and composition of the existing roof. Some green roofers even plant gardens on their roof and harvest food.
There are many benefits to having a green roof other than the environmental ones like reduced construction waste and pollution caused by the manufacturing process used for artificial materials. Green roofs keep the heat in when the weather is cold and out in the summer when it’s hot. Storm water runoff is greatly reduced by the absorption of the soil and plant roots. Reducing the urban heat island effect by using green roofs can lower the mean temperature of an area by as much as ten degrees and lower cooling costs.
One popular way of greening your roof is by using Green Roof Blocks. These blocks can be used like roof paving material or they can be installed right over your existing roof. The blocks don’t use as much soil as some systems, so the weight on your house is significantly reduced. You can find out more information by visiting www.greeroofblocks.com