The American Dream includes a home with a lush green yard, but for many of us, that that dream doesn't always become reality. Especially if you live in a dense urban area, your yard may be small or even non-existent. You can nurture potted plants in your window sills, or you can create green roofs and living walls in order to bring the outdoors into your home.
A yard on top of your house? Yes, it's possible, as long as your home's structure is sturdy enough to support some extra weight. Green roofs, also commonly called living roofs, may be comprised of several components: waterproofing and roof repellent, drainage system, growing medium, and of course, vegetation, which may be planted in containers or integrated into a modular system.
There are two main types of green roofs: an "intensive" green roof is thick and accommodates different sizes of plants up to small trees and shrubs, supports human weight and often include pavers and decks, functioning as a roof terrace. An "extensive" roof is lighter in weight and may feature grasses and mosses and is likely accessed only for maintenance. If you have a pitched roof, you must opt for this type. Either type may cover the entire roof or only take up a portion.
Green roofs offer several benefits for your home and the environment. They increase property value, insulate your roof and cut down energy costs, absorb rainwater and reduce runoff, create oxygen, provide habitats for local vegetation and animals, and perhaps even allow you to grow crops. Expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $25 per square foot for design and installation, which may also vary depending on geographical location and complexity.
If the roof structure of your home can't support the added weight or it's not within your budget, consider installing a living wall, a vertical surface that hosts vegetation. Living walls, also called green walls, vertical gardens or bio-walls, may be installed on your home's facade, as a freestanding surface, or on an interior wall. These walls may include soil or a growing medium within a structure of modular panels, or feature climbing vines that are rooted in the ground or planters. They may also include irrigation systems. If sufficient natural light does not reach the plants, artificial lighting may be used to supplement.
Living walls improve air quality and filtration, reduce air temperature and energy consumption, provide water purification, not to mention their pleasing aesthetic. They also provide a very effective noise barrier to the outdoors. The cost of a living wall varies drastically, depending on its size, the type of plants and structure, and whether you build it yourself, use a modular system or hire a specialist to handle the installation.
Green roofs and living walls offer many of the benefits that a traditional yard does, plus a few extras. Ultimately, they are lower maintenance and truly "greener" than a large yard because they preserve natural, undeveloped land.