Green urban architecture is on the rise, redefining the way designers contribute to energy efficient solutions. Today’s city dwellers are tightly packed, but traditional upscale living spaces are offering new, eco-friendly options.
From the shrub-planted Bosco Verticale—a vertical forest designed on steel-reinforced balconies—to the insulated eco-roofs created by architects like Robert Maschke, green architecture is in. While the Bosco Verticale was conceived as an urban sprawl alternative designed to positively impact citizen health, the smaller home developments of Maschke serve a different purpose: bringing large-scale eco-designs into neighborhoods.
The Insulative Power of Green Roofs
According to the EPA, green roofs filter pollution, insulate interiors, reduce stormwater runoff and provide a natural alternative to costly air-cooling systems. By reducing the “heat island effect,” or the hot temperature increase in urban environments, these green roofs are combating summertime peak energy demands.
Researchers from Bio Science Mag and similar journals have weighed in on the case: Roofs, alone, represent up to 30 percent of built-up area horizontal surfaces—and these surfaces are the primary “energy loss zones” in most architecture. By adding soil and vegetation, an architectural designer can directly reduce a building’s energy consumption.
This works due to each building’s energy fluctuations. Vegetation intercepts and dissipates solar radiation. By reducing the sun’s rays, essentially, a green roof reduces the overall energy needed to keep an establishment’s air cold.
Long-Term Design Benefits
The dissipation of solar radiation isn’t the only benefit green roofs provide, either. Growing plants mitigate storm-water runoff by gathering, and retaining, precipitation. By reducing the volume of flowing storm-water into urban waterways—or even building foundations, themselves—green roofs not only reduce electric bills, but urban health costs.
The result is a building packed with thermal benefits—one which has spawned the “living roof” trend designers like Robert Maschke have enriched with living house designs. Today’s homeowners can start their own journey by purchasing green system “modules,” or installable trays brimming with sedum and plants pre-grown in plant nurseries. The Missouri-based company, LiveRoof, has since supplied over three million feet of green roof technology—30 percent of which has been installed on residential homes.
Green Roofs on Sound Foundations
Meanwhile, industry associations like Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) have studied the eco-friendly movement. As a national leader for green roof installation, GRHC has sparked a number of innovative programs and progressive policies, including its own Stormwater Retention Credit trading, green roof rebates and local initiatives aimed at sparking further research.
The North American eco-roof industry has become a driving force of urban resilience planning, and more local governments are passing regulations and legislation to transform wasted roof space into clean air, water, and energy solutions. In its 2017 Green Roof Industry Survey, the association collected data from over 1,000 completed projects across 39 states. An astounding 5,389,749 square feet of green roofs have been installed, and the number is projected to grow.
As for the future, architectural designers can certainly expect a shift into lush marketing opportunities spawned from such eco-friendly solutions. Between standout projects and a call for more industry experts, a once-niche design novelty has become a solid foundation for new ideas—ideas which will surely reinvent the modern approach to architectural design.