The Best Alternative Plants for Green Roofs

Posted by Ecogardens


While sedum has a formidable reputation when it comes to green roofs, there are a variety of other plants that offer competitive benefits.

Ask most people, and they’ll tell you there aren’t many alternative plants for green roofs. Sedum or bust, right?

Not quite. Actually, using native plants that complement the environment are a great approach, as long as you know which alternative species will work best for a particular rooftop environment and geographic location.

This becomes a bit more challenging on extensive green roofs, explains the University of Minnesota, pointing out that plant options are more limited when you have only 3-6 inches of growing media with which to work.

“Since there is less soil and the system as a whole has to be lighter,” they explain, “extensive green roofs are not able to support trees or shrubs like intensive systems. Instead, grasses and small plants are the available vegetation options for extensive green roofs.”

That said, there are quite a few plants that fit the bill – those aforementioned grasses or plants. See? We’re not nearly as confined to sedums as common perception holds.

Let’s take a look at our favorite alternative plants for green roofs today.

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Topics: Green Roofs

What Is Green Roof Technology and How Does It Work?

Posted by Ecogardens


Green roof technology encompasses an increasingly sought-after range of products, but what exactly are those products and how do they apply to you?

Imagine you’re in downtown Chicago, Detroit or St. Louis. You’re standing 20 or 40 or 60 stories up, gazing out at the sea of rooftops flowing before you. What do you see?

If you’re like most denizens of the Midwest, you see a lot of bare rooftops. Some A/C units, maybe a few solar panels. And … wait, is that … yes! It is! A patch of green, defying rain and snow and wind and frost and burning sun to survive at elevation, in an unnatural environment, against all odds.

It is a green roof, and it is kicking ass.

But how? How is it we’re able to engineer such hardy environments in such demanding environments?

Green roof technology, friend. Today, we’re here to talk about exactly what that is, so you can stop wondering what it is – and start making the most of green roofs in your own life, business, city and environment.

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Topics: Green Roofs

How Can Green Roof Stewardship Benefit You and the World?

Posted by Ecogardens


Working to keep a green roof healthy has a number of benefits beyond aesthetic appeal, but do you know what they are? Here’s why green roof stewardship matters.

If the phrase “green roof stewardship” sounds far less interesting than “three-day weekend” or “mocha latte stat,” then you’re not alone.

You’re busy, and you’re not looking for yet another chore. Can’t a person catch a break once in a while??

Well, we have good news: investing in ongoing and intelligent green roof stewardship may actually provide more of a break than you think, especially if you already have a green roof. Plus, it offers tons of other benefits as well.

Shall we take a look at some of them? Of course we shall.

Feel free to grab that mocha first, though.

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Topics: Green Roofs

Village of Orland Park Gets a New Green Roof … and a New Outlook

Posted by Ecogardens


When the Village of Orland Park decided to install a new green roof on a municipal building, we broke the mold and took a new approach.

Recently we had the extreme pleasure of working with Orland Park on a new green roof for their village hall.

Today, we have the even greater pleasure of watching our newly planted natives start to grow, seeing people enjoy the space, and watching those nesting birds and pollinators show up.

Seriously, we saw them out there with their tape measures. We assume they’re off buying drapes right now.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s back up.

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Topics: Green Roofs

The Importance of Enforcing Green Roof Programs After the Build/Handoff

Posted by Ecogardens


Building a green roof is all very well, but what happens next? If the answer isn’t “amazeballs stewardship,” then you’re doing something wrong.

Much of our collective cultural focus on green roofs has to do with “getting one.” As though simply installing a roof is enough to win you the Medal of Ongoing Environmental Awesomeness for All Time.

No, that’s not a real thing.

Yes, some people act like it is.

Truthfully, though, while it’s fantastic to build green infrastructure, it’s not enough to simply do so, dust off your hands and walk away.

The same goes for any other type of green infrastructure: bioswale, rain collection system, low-water landscape, rooftop garden, or what have you. These systems are tightly structured to achieve specific goals, and they often exist in harsh environments. They need careful stewarding, or they won’t achieve those goals and they will suffer.

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Topics: Green Roofs

How Often Should You Schedule Site Inspections for Your Green Roof?

Posted by Ecogardens


Careful stewardship of your green roof means frequent site inspections to ensure its health and stability, but how often should they occur?

If you build it … they will come. “They” being the birds, butterflies, insects and other fauna that inhabit green roofs across our fair cities.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Green roofs need careful balancing. A green roof's purpose is to mimic nature in a very condensed profile. You have deep soil profiles in nature, around 2 feet on average, but we’re asking the same type of natural habitat to perform in only 6 inches, and often less. That's a big ask.

In other words, they need our help maintaining balance. While an established green roof does settle into a low-maintenance equilibrium, there’s no such thing as a no-maintenance system, no matter what some green roofers will tell you beforehand.

Just ask anyone who’s ever dropped tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a project, then let it “take care of itself” for a few years.

Spoiler alert: It won’t. Which is where green roof site inspections come in.

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Topics: Green Roofs

3 Financial Benefits of Maintaining a Green Roof

Posted by Ecogardens


Green roofs are pretty, and we all know they’re “good” for the world, but what does that really mean? Here’s a look at the bottom-line benefits of ecological systems.

Would you get a great haircut and then call it good for life?

Can you make an awesome brunch then never eat again?

Do you pop out a baby, dust off your hands and say, “Good luck in college, kid!”

Of course not, because hair, tummies and children all take serious maintenance over time.

Well, the same goes for maintaining green roofs. Why should we assume that putting one in, reaping those tax credits and walking away will result in solid benefits over time?

Spoiler alert: that kind of approach doesn’t work at all. In fact, without routine stewardship – working with the ecological system to ensure it gets the care it needs, when it needs it – you will quickly lose those bennies.

No one wants that, and yet, taking care of a green roof does cost time and money, so you need a good reason to do so, right?

Here are three.

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Topics: Green Roofs

Creating Urban Spaces in Step with Nature: An Introduction to Ecogardens

Posted by Ecogardens


Now that we’re showing our face around here a lot more, we thought it was time for a proper introduction.

Next time you’re seventeen stories up and see a green roof winking at you from the next building over, take a moment to stop and think about what that really means.

The growing prevalence of green roofs is indicative of an ever-increasing interest in making our cities healthier places. We’re proud of the fact that our fellow Chicagoans – as well as others throughout the Midwest – are putting their voices forward in support of ecological design and green infrastructure.

Almost as proud as we are of our own contributions to the field.

Hey, no one said we were modest.

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Topics: Green Roofs

What Is Green Roof First Aid and When Do You Need It?

Posted by Ecogardens


A green roof, like any other system, can get sick. When that happens, you need first aid fast – but how do you recognize it?

Put down the chai latte and come out of that lotus pose for a moment. Turn off the whale songs too. We promise this won’t take long.

Okay. That’s better. Now we have a question for you:

When you imagine green roof stewardship, what do you see?

If you’re like most people, your answer is something along the lines of, Wait, green roofs need stewardship? Don’t they, like, take care of themselves?

Now, we know you regard green roofs (and green infrastructure in general) highly, but that’s not the same as knowing what’s best for an ecological system. Don’t feel bad; even some of the greatest minds in the industry occasionally forget there’s a post-handoff step: stewardship.

Sadly, not all systems get the care they need on an ongoing basis, which is where green roof first aid becomes necessary.

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Topics: Green Roofs

Why You Should Get a Rooftop Garden Today

Posted by Ecogardens


Rooftop gardens bring more than beauty and energy to a formerly lackluster space. They also bring nature into the city, IMPROVING human health and offering valuable real estate for plants, pollinators and other wildlife.

Ever look out your office window and seen people having drinks on a rooftop garden across the way – and feel a serious urge to gatecrash their party?

Ever wish you could turn that abandoned roof space into a plant-bedecked, fairy light-strewn Eden, right in your own building?

Ever want to increase the psychosocial and physical healing times at your hospital with an elaborate green roof space, but you’re not sure how?

You, my friend, need a rooftop garden.

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Topics: Green Roofs, Pollinators