Installing a Green Roof in St. Louis, Missouri

“A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams is a title that conjures up a pretty graphic picture. As you can imagine, a tin roof must get pretty hot in the summertime and be very uncomfortable for the cat just as the circumstances and characters in the play were uncomfortable. I one lived in a little country house with a tin roof and though I liked the sound that the rain made when it fell on the roof, the house was a real pain to heat in the wintertime and cool in the summer. The roof eventually rusted out and had to be replaced by one that was made of shingles. This was quite a few years ago when the thought of growing grass or a garden on your roof to save energy and help the environment would have been classified here in the Midwest as being something that “the kooks in California might do.”

In the past few years “building green” has become an increasingly familiar phenomenon in the United States. The trend actually started back in the 1960’s in Germany and that county now has one of the largest proportions of “green roofs.” From the roofs of public buildings in Chicago to rooftop gardens in New York, green roofs add an almost surreal quality to the helicopter views of the cities. A “green roof” is generally defined as a rooftop that is completely or partially covered with soil and vegetation. Sometimes roofs that utilize solar panels or some other form of green technology are also referred to as being green.

Green roofs have several advantages over traditional roofing. They reduce heating costs by insulating in the winter and cooling costs by absorbing heat in the summer. They also reduce the heat island effect in large cities where large amounts of concrete in buildings and sidewalks can capture and retain heat. They also increase the lifespan of the roof and decrease storm water runoff. They can also provide a habitat for plants, insects, and animals in the cities where they are used.

There are many different systems that you can use for installing your green roof, but one of the easiest and most innovative are pre-measured roof panels that you install over some sort of waterproof medium like rubber or tile. Each pre-grown panel is about 3’x3′ and weighs about 75 pounds. A mat of polyester and hemp is pressed into the base. The panels are planted with five types of sedum, which is a type of plant that thrives in the very hot and dry conditions on most roofs. You will have to water the roof when it gets really dry when you first install the roof.

The price for installing a green roof can be expensive at first. The cost of a sun porch sized roof typically runs about $5,000, but the energy savings can be substantial over the long run. Right now the panels have to be shipped to the St. Louis area from Toronto, Canada but there are several companies that are trying to develop the product locally. You can get more information by visiting www.greenroofblocks.com

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