Permaculture and Green Roofs: A First Step

By 2100, it’s estimated that urban land in the United States will occupy a total space of 466,000 kilometers, which is an increase of 216,000 kilometers from the current area of urban land. This increase should be a serious point of concern because urban areas have a significant detrimental effect on the health of the environment. Given that in 2007 it was estimated that urban buildings accounted for about 30-40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, this percentage could markedly increase if our current design of urban areas remains unchanged. A viable option for mitigating the effects of these projected increases could be the incorporation of permaculture design in urban architecture.

Permaculture is defined as the natural integration of people and their landscape which results in sustainable production of food, shelter, energy and other materials. The main idea is to become more aligned with nature’s patterns in order to use them for your immediate benefit. This often takes form in people incorporating local agricultural efforts into their daily lives, such as a small home garden or a rainwater collection system. One particularly interesting application of permaculture design in urban areas is the construction of green roofs.

A green roof is any normal roof that is partially or completely covered with vegetation of any kind, anything from grass to trees. The utility of a green roof stems from the fact that it transforms a generally neglected, underused area into a formidable provider of sustenance and other environmental benefits. One striking benefit is that the surface temperature of a green roof is generally the same air temperature or less whereas many traditional roofs can reach temperatures of up to 90F. This reduction in surface temperature translates into a reduction in a building’s energy consumption since only a relatively minimal 6-inch green roof can reduce summer energy demands by up to 75%. Despite this clear energy benefit, many people are not convinced in their value because they believe that green roofs could potentially damage their current roofing. These concerns are actually groundless because it has been shown that green roofs can actually double the lifespan of a traditional roof since they protect a roof’s membrane from tough weather and ultraviolet radiation.

Taking into consideration the numerous economical and energy benefits a green roof can provide, it becomes clear that green roofs should become a permanent fixture in urban architecture. Although their incorporation will most likely fail to completely offset the negative environmental effects of urban areas, it will be a worthwhile step in the right direction. It will also serve as an incentive for people to adopt the principles of permaculture and integrate them into their individual lifestyles and ultimately reduce their daily impact on the environment.


Works Cited

Biello, David. “Cool Roofs Might Be Enough to Save Cities from Climate Overheating.” Scientific American. N.p., 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 04 May 2017.

Dowdey, Sarah. “What Is a Green Roof?” HowStuffWorks Science. HowStuffWorks, 11 July 2007. Web. 04 May 2017.

Heinonen, Jukka, and Seppo Junnila. “Implications of Urban Structure on Carbon Consumption in Metropolitan Areas.” Environmental Research Letters 6 (2011): n. pag. Web. 4 May 2017.

Silverman, Jacob. “Will There Be Farms in New York City’s Skyscrapers?” HowStuffWorks Science. HowStuffWorks, 26 June 2007. Web. 04 May 2017.