Øesch Environmental Design
Environmental Design - Green Roofs
Creach - Raschke Green Roof Garden - Richmond, VA.
Living Roof
Living Roof
Creach - Raschke Green Roof Garden

Many practical factors reinforce the application of an earthen "Living Roof" system. In addition to the initial construction cost, these include reduced energy consumption and operating cost, and life cycle maintenance cost. There is a notable distinction between a "Living Roof" building, and an "Earth Sheltered" building. Earth shelter typically connotates an underground building, earth bermed on most of its exterior walls, with earth covering the majority if not all of its roof. While there may be many localized situations where such a design strategy is most appropriate, it is a more specialized case than is being suggested here. A living roof building is essentially above ground, with increased opportunity for omni-directional natural daylighting, ventilation, views, and access. It affords none of the, primarily psychological perceptions of earth shelter, as dark, stuffy, cold, damp, and entrapping.

In theory, a living roof never needs to be replaced, and once established needs little or no maintenance! If monitored and cared for, a living roof can be self-sustaining and maintaining indefinitely, i.e., regenerating. The care involved requires no more than a typical lawn or garden, and even this is optional. A living roof may even perform best if just left alone. By allowing it to grow, mature, die, and fertilize itself, the cycle of regeneration is perpetuated. A well detailed living roof system should however, continue to function properly, i.e., not leak, even if it is "dead". The proper utilization of modern materials, combined with a design strategy of built-in redundancy, can insure against human neglect.

A living roof eloquently exemplifies the very definition of "shelter" itself, as protection from the elements, and these include:

Extreme sunlight [ Ultra-Violet Radiation ]
Thermal Shock [ Rapid Temperature Fluctuation ]
Water, Ice, Acid Rain [ Freezing and Thawing Cycles ]
Oxidation [ Rust ]
High Winds
Natural Cooling [ Self-shade and Transpiration ]
Ambient Noise

Furthermore , this protection includes the building's structure itself, as well as for the inhabitants. This in turn helps to insure the building's longevity, and likelihood to remain cared for over time. And in the event the building is abandoned and left to ruin, the transition back to the land providing new habitat for animals in the process), will be one of dignity, beauty and grace. Living roofs return to the site, at least as much as the building footprint has trampled away. From a bird's perspective, the site changes very little, or even improves with the availability of safe new nesting sites, wildflower seeds, or perhaps a bird bath water fountain.

A living roof can be a self-preserving, maintaining, sustaining, healing, renewing, perpetuating, regenerating, and I would argue enriching shelter system. The current strategy is to achieve maximum planting efficiency, with minimum organic support, and its associated weight. In this way any additional structural and logistical requirements, and their related costs, are minimized.

Fred Oesch | 8672 Schuyler Rd. | P.O. Box 58 | Schuyler, VA. 22969 | [434] 566-4229 | email : fredoesch@earthlink.net