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Atlanta Roofing: Article About Living Roofs

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A living roof can vary from a rooftop garden to a small patch of grass, and each living roof has challenges to overcome. Most often, the regional climate and the fact that the average living garden only allows 5 inches for plants to grow constitute a significant challenge. Still, there many homeowners believe that the energy saving benefit of a living roof is worth the effort whether that roof is commercial or residential, flat or pitched.

Even when using soils specifically developed for living roofs, a living roof can be heavy. Because of this, it is important for a structural engineer to inspect a roof and point out where reinforcement may be needed before installing a living roof. Without reinforcement, the extra weight could cause the roof to collapse. Atlanta roofing companies who install living roofs are well aware of the need to make sure that the roof's structure is able to support the additional weight of a living roof.

Homeowners cannot use local topsoil for their living roof. It is far too heavy and retains too much water.

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Environmental scientists have devised a living roof soil composed of ground volcanic rock and organic matter that is lightweight, drains well and can support plant growth. Unfortunately, this soil has to be shipped to most places and adds cost to living roof installation, but as research progresses, other soils may become available.

Another factor is the plants themselves. A rooftop is a very harsh environment. It takes the full force of all the wind, rain and sun. Plants on a living roof must be able to do the same while living in shallow soil. Many varieties of succulents and native grasses are used in living roofscapes because of their ability to withstand extremes in temperature and water availability. Researchers are working to find or breed plants that will thrive in rooftop conditions.

Many municipalities have adopted living roofs as a means to cut costs in city owned buildings. At the same time, data is collected by researchers in order to advance living roof technology. The city of Atlanta has a 3,000 square foot pilot roof on the City Hall. Contractors monitor the roof's structural performance, which plants thrive and the amount of energy used for heating and cooling the building. The goal of the city's green roof is to provide an example as well as data that can be used to incorporate living roofs into future residential and commercial buildings.

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