Although it seems that we have a strong connection with nature, current urbanization largely determines how connected and surrounded we are by nature. What is the effect (lack) of greenery in urban areas? Feeling of peace, tranquillity and harmony is the reason for our escape to nature. The imperative should be bringing natural values as close to our everyday lives as possible.
Roofs. If flat, residential roofs are potential candidates for additional green zones. In fact, each building has certain facilities for landscaping the roof gardens. While these remain neglected, planning of natural oases represent the best way to tackle the growing problem of urbanization and the best prevention against the lack of greenery in cities.
It is a fact that nature-based green therapy helps people and, at the same time, works on bringing individuals together in communities and on breaking social stigmas, which generally and in the long term improve the mental state of an individual. It is the best way to deal with the growing problem of the separation of society and also affects other things, such as reducing the warming of facilities, opens up new spaces for green zones, i.e. urban gardens, allows rainwater to be retained, which can later be used for watering plants, and builds a full circular maintenance. In this way, it awakens the architecture that is human-friendly.
Modern architecture ignores valuable concepts that were conceived at the beginning of the 20th century, during the influence of Le Corbusier, who promoted the functional aspect of roof gardens as the basic means of bringing nature closer to urban housing. Specifically, Le Corbusier experimented in his researches with various spatial conditions for a roof garden. The main motif of his theories was directed towards the vantage point towards the distant horizon, in which the person is mentally and poetically lost in the visuals of his/her city from a height. Instead of a planner, Le Corbusier becomes an observer of the natural state and the way in which it affects the individual.
Nature on the roof garden is not just an ornament nor frame for the landscape; it is a direct connection with nature, conceived as an optical device focused on the horizon – Le Corbusiere
Roof terrace at the Unité d’Habitation in Marseille. Source: Le Corbusier Roof-Spaces A. Como, I. Forni, L. Smeragliuolo Perrotta University of Salerno, Italy
The roof garden becomes a major recovery for already built-up areas in the city within the researches of Le Corbusier. The flat roof is a consequence of the reinforced concrete structure, and the appearance of humidity on the roofs, in the presence of earth, protects the structure from bending and destruction. Thus, the natural elements prevailed over the technical characteristics of modern structures. This is how nature separates itself from architecture, but together they live in symbiosis, each according to its own natural laws.
Source: Le Corbusier Roof-Spaces A. Como, I. Forni, L. Smeragliuolo Perrotta University of Salerno, Italy
How to get your own roof garden? Roof gardens come in many varieties, from no-maintenance low-growing sedum roofs, intensive roof gardens with trees and bushes, to urban gardens with crops. Maintained green roofs can become charming and playful places, relaxing therapeutic gardens or wild flower reserves. With a few creative ideas, we can create a real little haven and transform a grey, impersonal space into a green eco zone.
We will explain the difference between extensively and intensively planted roof gardens, since these are one of the most common forms of landscaping of roof decks.
Extensively planted roof are intended for spaces that are not actively used, are inaccessible or simply have only aesthetic function. Such layers usually consist of a very thin vegetation layer (substrate thickness of 8 to 15 cm), so the choice of plants is narrowed and adapted to conditions that require occasional maintenance, usually until natural vegetation covers the desired surface. This type of roof garden prefers communities of herbs such as sedums, drought tolerant herbs, and various types of succulents, meadow grass, culinary herbs or moss.
Example of extensively planted roof. Source: https://www.doerken.com/int/greenroof.php Accessed on 22 April 2020
Intensively planted roof is suitable for places where the roof structure allows a sufficiently deep vegetation layer, has a specific roof’s load bearing capacity of the material, while other conditions are also present, such as regular watering and the possibility of adding favourable nutrients for plant growth. This type of roof garden requires regular care and maintenance of vegetation, as it is similar to any other garden on the ground, and hence it is significantly different from an extensively planted roof garden. The choice of plants includes low vegetation, as well as larger decorative bushes and trees of 60 to 200 cm, but also fruit trees and other edible plants. Ambient value is enhanced by combining various elements of water, fountains, trails, and rest places with benches, gazebos and sculptures at the focal points of the space.
Both gardens require preparation of the roofing underlayment on the existing structure, designed for heavy loads. The preparation of the terrain starts with proper waterproofing and placing the protective geotextile, on which drainage-accumulating styrofoam pots are placed, while filter geotextile, equipment and a mixture of substrate for planting plants (from 20 – 30 cm for low bushes and ground cover plants to 30 – 60 cm for larger bushes) are laid on the pots. A layer of gravel or mulch protects the substrate’s final layer, while the trails are arranged according to the structure specified for each specific project. (Source: Žalac H., 2016.-Krovni vrtovi-obavezni dio moderne arhitekture-da ili ne? Sveučilište Josipa Jurja Strossmayera, Poljoprivredni fakultet u Osijeku, Osijek /Žalac H., 2016 – Roof Gardens – Mandatory Part of Modern Architecture – Yes or No? Josip Juraj Strossmayer University of Osijek, Faculty of Agriculture Osijek, Osijek/).
Example of intensively planted roof. Source: https://www.urbangreenbluegrids.com/measures/green-roofs/intensive-green-roofs/ Accessed on 22 April 2020
Sometimes it is enough to start decorating your own roof garden with growing or ornamental pots, vases, or suitable cases. Thus, by grouping the appropriate plant material, we achieve a biophilic green effect that does not require serious maintenance other than regular irrigation and fertilization. With the final selection of plants, which prefer constant sun exposure, lack of substrates and humidity, we achieve a compromise and simplicity of a landscape concept that is easily adaptable to different seasons and weather changes (image below).
An urban roof garden is one of the practical ideas of growing seasonal vegetables from the safety of your own home. It is possible to grow chard, peppers, salads, kale, cabbage and beetroot in suitable beds, which will have the same conditions for survival as on the ground. Therapeutic gardens combine aromatic herbs that are relaxing and stimulate one’s senses. The scents of lavender, everlasting, sage, lemon balm, basil, rosemary, chamomile and thyme can affect mood, work, behaviour and emotional state. Vertical gardens create the appropriate shade and allow climbing plants to reach their potential, but also can be planned along the edges of the roof garden as a visual protection against unwanted views. Materials are one of the elements that create dynamics in space, therefore it is recommended to set these up in the areas where you can relax for a more complete and luxurious impression (make sure that choice of materials are resistant to external conditions). The water element is an excellent aesthetic and sound impression that calms, relaxes and focuses, so it is often an indispensable part of quality roof landscaping.
The options in choosing topics are limitless, and the way in which you will achieve it depends on your involvement and needs.
Example of intensive roof garden. Source: https://www.realhomes.com/advice/how-to-design-a-rooftop-garden Accessed on 22 April 2020
Why not take advantage of the existing, familiar territory of your own home and create the right micro-climate for yourself and your loved ones? The positive effects will be already evident at the first flowering, while the beneficial therapy of working on the ground will nurture one who is ready to experiment and observe. Such small steps in greening small spaces save energy, increase the value of property and, on a larger scale with other green areas in the city, protect biodiversity and modernize principles of urban environmental protection. We invite everyone who is able to connect with nature in such a way to try their own plant growing experiment on roof gardens.
If you became interested after reading this text, and have possibility and desire for creating your own roof garden, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can help you to choose the best solution for your green roof oasis.
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