Think that the city is a dead zone for nature’s bounty? Think again. Urban rooftop gardens provide a variety of benefits for those who dwell in an urban environment. The vast space available on rooftops is often a most overlooked area which, ironically, patiently overlooks us as we walk in the city below. People are increasingly beginning to realize that these spaces have an abundance of natural resources to be accessed. Rain water and sunlight, as well as ample breezes, are there to be harnessed for human use. It is not necessary to depend upon food from far off lands when living in a city. Healthy natural foods can be ours in the city, free of charge, with a little planning and some innovative construction.
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The city of Chicago Department of Environment offers a free booklet that can be accessed on the web, called Guide to Rooftop Gardening. The booklet outlines the benefits of rooftop gardens and other “green roof” alternatives. The beneficial use of once-wasted space is not the only benefit of green roofing or rooftop gardening. The phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect, caused by dark colored and bare surfaces on the tops of buildings, is greatly mitigated by these practices. Urban heat island effect often causes temperatures to stay much higher in areas where cooling costs can be a serious issue, especially in the summer months. The higher temperatures increase the smog in an area and are a hazard to human health. The carbon dioxide and other effluent from autos and industry are trapped by the heat island and reduce air quality. Plant life on rooftops not only clean the air through photosynthesis, but the lighter colors of materials and flora in a rooftop garden will reflect sunlight and cool ambient temperatures which reduces the direct ill effects of urban air pollution.
The green roof concept can be applied to almost any building. Even in a suburban setting, a small green roof setup will help insulate a structure and reduce heating and cooling costs year-round. Rooftops in the city should come standard with solar panels and wind turbines considering the fossil fuel crisis currently plaguing the minds of sustainability advocates and well-informed citizens, alike. Rooftop gardens can delay the peak flow of falling rainwater and store it for use by plants. Pursuing a healthy hobby with aesthetic and physically rewarding outcomes are other reasons to get into urban rooftop gardening—not to mention, you could eat for free and the view is often a unique and beautiful vantage compared to the often cramped and busy city below.
Chicago City Hall green roof is a beautiful site among the drab gray of the city.
A rooftop in Camden, NJ. This was taken from an add posted by a company that will plant and maintain rooftop gardens for clients, a great business model for horticulture enthusiasts and sustainability proponents with some green-thumb skills.
This rustic looking scene is pleasantly enhanced with the lush meadow-like feature covering the red house’s rooftop.
Green rooftops can be for commercial business . . .
. . . for residential application . . .
. . . and for pleasure.
Wherever you may find your self, working with available natural resources to enhance your quality of life is always the right thing to do. Many studies have shown that humans benefit from a more natural environment in mind, body, and spirit. Better air quality, reduced climate control expenses, and even better memory and cognitive function are all rewards to be reaped with green-spaces. Why not incorporate one into the often overlooked spaces that were looking over us all this time?
All photos sourced from the web and are displayed under fair use.