With an ever expanding population in Australia, particularly in its cities, the space needed for more parks, trees and gardens has become an increasing concern. Thus has risen a slow but gradual trend towards rooftop gardens on urban buildings and houses.
This trend to accommodate eco-living into our increasingly busy lives is being adopted by architects around the world, where city apartments and office blocks now feature these tip top sanctuaries. And while Australian buildings have seen such places for some time, here they’re only beginning to be incorporated onto the home roof.
According to Jock Gammon from Junglefy, an Australian company specialising in rooftop gardens, “the main market (now) is for roof gardens on home extensions, maybe overlooking a new kitchen out the back.”
Besides space and architectural innovation, just what are some of the benefits to having a rooftop garden?
According to Amanda Morphet of Green Gateway, a company in Dunsborough, W.A, “they clean the air, attract wildlife and insects… filter and clean water and lower the stormwater run-off.” She adds that rooftop gardens “can also lower the electromagnetic radiation from other buildings and increase your solar panel production by reducing the reflective heat coming off the roof, so the panels absorb better.”
Rooftop gardens are also known to improve a building’s insulation, and according to Urban Ecology Australia, they will also stabilise a building’s temperature, as layers of moist soil and plants acts as a type of thermal sink. Furthermore, Junglefy believes rooftop gardens protect a roof’s inner membrane, meaning that roofs smothered by a rooftop garden last up to twice as long as those without.
Many local councils and government’s also now insist that buildings have a certain amount of vegetation, so they can look favourably upon the addition of a rooftop garden.
How does one actually construct a rooftop garden?
This depends entirely on your scale of rooftop garden, as some bigger ones incorporate features such as pools and ponds. However, for a relatively small one, “the first step is getting a structural engineer involved, to make sure the roof is suitable for the kind of garden you want,” says Jock Gammon. He says due to their lightweight nature, rooftop gardens rarely require structural support, although this depends on how old the building is and what type of garden you want.
Plant ecologist from the University of Melbourne, Nick Williams, says tougher plants on a rooftop garden can be a good idea, as they require little access and can survive without being watered for longer periods. However, in more ornate gardens, rooftop gardens need to be waterproofed, to avoid structural damage to the building. Regular access points are also a good idea for ease of maintenance.
All this is of course good news for the urban dweller, as the rooftop garden provides us with a type of sanctuary, or place of urban inspiration in our concrete jungles, in which we get so easily lost.
Check out some examples of rooftop gardens below…
Here is a look at the rooftop garden on top of MCentral in Sydney.