The Empire State Building has one. Airline passengers arriving at the Frankfurt International Airport in Germany are greeted by one. And if the casinos on the strip keep going green, you just might see more of them in Las Vegas.
They are green roofs, and they are being credited with everything from reducing energy costs to cleaning up wastewater to providing benefits to bats. They are also becoming more common across the country.
But are they really as good as advertised?
Here's a quick look at what a green roof is and why they just might be the real deal when it comes to creating a community that's easier on the environment:
What is a green roof?
On its surface, a green roof is nothing more than a garden growing on top of a building. But when you dig a little deeper into all those rooftop gardens that are popping up all over the country, you see that's they are more than the vegetative layers visible to passersby.
Green roofs are actually marvels of modern engineering. They're ballasted roofs build from waterproof membranes, a layer of soil and plants.
In desert environments such as those found in Nevada, most green roofs are considered semi-intensive, meaning they use moderate size plants that don't require a lot of maintenance but still deliver all the benefits that make green roofs so valuable.
What benefits does a green roof deliver?
Ask anyone who lives beneath a green roof about its benefits and you are sure to hear a long list of attributes.
Many feel that a green roof is more aesthetically pleasing than a roof built from shingles or tiles--although driving up to a home with a garden growing above it still takes some getting used to for some.
Water diversion is another attribute that is frequently cited by people who have invested in green roofs. Rain water, which isn't too frequent in the Las Vegas area, is used to feed the plants, meaning less of it makes its way into wastewater treatment plants.
Green roofs have also been credited with reducing the "urban heat island effect," which can cause the outside air temperatures to rise in densely populated areas. In addition, many homeowners say that their green roofs have improved the quality of their homes acoustics.
How much does a green roof cost?
As is the case with any roof, the cost of green roofs vary. The size of the building plays a big role in determining how much a roof costs. In general, however, green roofs cost about $15 per square foot, and that covers the basic four-inch system that includes sedums and hearty herbs, water storage, plant material and the waterproof membrane.
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