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Burn Baby Burn...If you Can - Fire Safety and Green Roofs

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

By Kat Harrold

Photo ~ Green Roof Technology

In 1988 fire research testing on green roofs was begun by the Research and Material Testing laboratory of Baden-Wurttemberg in Stuttgart Germany.  Initial testing began with the evaluation of bituminous waterproofing layers.  It was discovered that the bituminous waterproofing when burned produced 50 kWh/m2.  Alternatively when this burn test was done on an extensive green roof with dry grasses only 3 kWh/m2 were produced.  

 

Tests were then done to see if it was possible to establish a fire that would spread across an extensive green roof and or start a glowing/burning of the growing media.  After several tests the conclusion was made that it was nearly impossible to create a fire on an extensive green roof that would spread across the roof or ignite the growing media.  Conversely it was discovered that a bare regular bituminous waterproofing membrane was 15-20 times more likely to catch fire than an extensive green roof with grasses and perennials.  It is for these reasons that many Germany insurance companies offer a 10-20% discount on fire insurance when a building has a built in place green roof.

 

On large extensive green roofs with grasses where there is a concern of fire spreading by wind carried sparks, spreading can be reduced or contained by use of fire breaks in the form of vegetation free strips.  These vegetation free strips can measure approximate 3 feet wide and be composed of river rock or gravel.  Vegetation free zones around roof hatch openings and other roof penetrations can also reduce harm to the building.

For more information on Fire and Wind on Extensive Green Roofs visit our resources page for a downloadable report.



Fire Tests in Germany Picture By: Universität Paffenwald





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