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Green Roof Technology Blog

A History of Green Roofs

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

By ~ Andrew Cole Yanders

One of the life’s great pleasures is the act of discovering an idea in a book that fundamentally changes the way you see the world.  This dynamic relationship between your life and the world of ideas is where creativity is sparked and dreams are made.   Often times you do not even understand what you are looking at but you recognize that it is different and fundamentally how things should be.  Today we are inundated with ontological debates, and possibly no more so than in how we view the structures we live and work in.  The image below of a classic Norwegian cabin speaks to my unconscious sense of how things should be.  Albeit a crude dwelling, it is awesome because of that fact.  Looking back into history for examples of how we used to strive to live in harmony with nature can provide the spark of inspiration we all need to find modern solutions to our most daunting challenges. 

  

The classic sod roofs of Scandinavian homes have many of the essential benefits modern green roofs have today such as insulation and stormwater control.  Well designed and constructed sod roofs have proven to last centuries.  We hope that 100+ years from now, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will look upon our green roofs the same way we look at these awesome Norwegian sod roofs.

Here at Green Roof Technology we are proud to house the largest green roofs archives in the United States.  Because our history with green roofs began way back in the mid 1970’s in Stuttgart, Germany, we have had the privilege to collect government and trade publications for almost four decades.  We thought the rest of you would enjoy taking a peek back in history too.

In the early 1970’s, Germany was the epicenter of a revitalization of roof top gardening.  Technologies and techniques were created to waterproof large flat roofs and shield them from root penetration.  Intricate irrigation systems were devised to support large woody perennials.  Roof gardens became a status symbol of wealth and prosperity during an age of rapid urbanization.

The next evolution in green roofing began in the 1980’s when light-weight extensive roofs were developed.  Popularized by their low costs and huge environmental benefits, the bird’s eye view of many German cities quickly changed in the subsequent decades.

Pictured below are a few covers from our collection and one page from a 1984 publication by the Baden-Wurttemberg government outlining intensive and extensive green roof systems.

For more green roof information take a look at our Resources Page. 

 

 

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