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    The evolution of the Green Roof

    November 2023


Green roofs are systems that incorporate vegetation and a growing medium into their structure and they have been around for thousands of years. The history of green roofs can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia, where they were used to insulate buildings and provide food and habitat for livestock. Green roofs were also used in ancient Greece and Rome, and in China during the Tang Dynasty, writes Justin Pitman, sales director Proteus Waterproofing.

In the Middle Ages, green roofs were popular in Europe, particularly in Scandinavia and Germany. They were used to protect thatched roofs from the elements and to provide a source of insulation. Green roofs were also used on castles and other fortified buildings to provide a layer of protection from attackers.

The Industrial Revolution led to a decline in the use of green roofs, as new roofing materials were developed that were cheaper and easier to install. However, there was a revival of interest in green roofs in the late 20th century, as people became more aware of the environmental benefits.

One of the first modern green roofs was installed in Germany in 1965. The roof was planted with sedum plants, which are low-growing and drought-tolerant. Sedum roofs are now the most common type of green roof in the world.

In the 1970s, green roofs began to be installed in North America and other parts of the world. In the 1990s, there was a rapid growth in the green roof market, driven by government support and increased awareness of the environment.

Today, green roofs are installed on a wide variety of buildings, including commercial, residential and government buildings. Green roofs are also becoming increasingly popular in developing countries.

The evolution of green roofs has been driven by a number of factors, particularly the environmental benefits, including the reduction of flood risk, improving air quality, reducing energy costs, and increasing biodiversity. This is perhaps why Governments around the world are offering financial incentives and other forms of support to encourage their installation.

There are two main types of green roofs - extensive and intensive.  Extensive green roofs are lightweight and require minimal maintenance. They are typically planted with sedum plants, which are low-growing and drought-tolerant. Intensive green roofs are heavier and require more maintenance and can be planted with a wider variety of plants, including shrubs and trees.

Extensive green roofs are relatively inexpensive to install and maintain and can be installed on most buildings, even those with older roofs. They require minimal maintenance, typically just one or two visits per year for weeding and irrigation.

Intensive green roofs offer a greater variety of plants. This provides more biodiversity and can create a more visually appealing roof. Intensive green roofs also provide more insulation than extensive green roofs, which can lead to further energy savings – and depending on the design - can retain more stormwater than extensive green roofs, which can help to reduce flood risk.

Against this background it is understandable why the green roof market in the UK is growing rapidly. A recent report by Market Research Future predicted that the global market for green roofs will reach $26.7 billion by 2027, with the UK being one of the key growth markets.

In the UK, the growth of the green roof market is being driven by a number of factors, including Government support where it has introduced a number of policies to encourage the adoption of green roofs, such as the Green Infrastructure Fund and the Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) policy.

As more and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of green roofs, both for the environment and for their own bottom line, we are seeing many new and spectacular examples across the country.

The Eden Project in Cornwall has a number of green roofs, including the world's largest greenhouse complex. The Olympic Park in London has a number of green roofs, including the Living Planet Centre and the Lee Valley VeloPark. The Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham has a green roof that covers four acres. This is in addition to the thousands of smaller projects across the country.

So, we can see, we have rediscovered the benefits of green roofs, just as our ancestors did many thousands of years ago, which is why green roofs remain a sustainable roofing solution that offers a huge number of advantages. It is not surprising then that the green roof market in the UK is growing so rapidly.

If you are considering installing a green roof, we at Proteus Waterproofing have all of resources available to help you get started – including a full design package covering everything needed to deliver a successful project- every time – call us.

Talk to an expert today!