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What Are Green/Living Roofs?


what are green/living roofs

What Exactly Are Green/Living Roofs?

When deciding on the best choice of roof for a business, a green/living roof probably wasn’t the first option that came to mind.

Providing that they are even aware of this unconventional roof’s existence, people usually think of it as complicated, expensive and more effort than they’re willing to spend. However, the advantages to this roof outweigh any drawbacks. Green/Living Roofs are becoming an increasingly popular roof alternative for firms in Toronto.

You may not have heard about or seen this variety of roof before – or if you have, may be wondering how exactly it functions. So what really are green roofs?

Assembled as layers on top of an appropriate, pre-existing, human-made roof which provides structural support, a living roof is made up of:

  • A growing medium
  • Vegetation
  • Insulation
  • A waterproof membrane
  • A root-repellent system
  • A drainage system

There are two main types of green roofs: Intensive/Active and Extensive.

Intensive/Active Green Roofs

Roofs which have a deeper growing medium which is conducive to heavy vegetation growing (can carry a load of up to 150 lbs per square foot) and additionally, can be used as accessible, recreational spaces.

Extensive Green Roofs

With a soil depth of just 3-6 inches generally, extensive green roofs are much shallower, in comparison. They are lightweight and built with low maintenance requirements and self-sustaining propensity in mind.

Examples of Green/Living Roofs in Toronto:

 The City of Toronto is home to an estimated 500 green roofs in total, on both privately owned and city owned buildings.

The Fairmont Royal York


The Royal York, at the heart of Downtown Toronto, is one of Toronto’s most well-known historic hotels. It houses a private, 4000 square-foot, intensive green roof, complete with edible flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruits which are used by the hotel’s chefs. The hotel also boasts more recently installed rooftop apiaries used for brewing beer.

York University


Built in 2003, the green roof perched atop York University’s Computer Science and Engineering building has been shown to have increased stormwater retention by a significant percent. The roof is divided up into decks, intensive gardens, container gardens and extensive green roof areas.

The Big Carrot

It seems appropriate that located on one of the Greektown area’s busiest natural food markets, The Big Carrot food store, is a rooftop equipped for gardening, agriculture, community events and even movie nights.

Ryerson University

The university’s “urban farm” is a quarter acre of semi-intensive living roof which has in some years produced up to 8,000 lbs of fresh produce which is sold at farmer’s markets and local campus diners. The roof is also used for research purposes, with specialized hydrological and climatological sensors having been installed to track data.


DUCA Financial Services Hotel

This green roof is composed of two different green spaces: an intensive green roof used for outdoor recreational activities and an extensive roof made up of greenery for to enhance the views of employees.


How Green/Living Roofs Can Benefit Your Business

what are green/living roofs


In addition to maximizing and enhancing your employees’ working space by providing scenic views, recreational spaces, cleaner air and a buffer to noise pollution, Green Roofs also can help you reduce overall costs in the long term.

They are known for minimizing air-conditioning and heating bills because of their capacity for absorbing sunlight and insulating. It is unlikely that you will have to spend a lot on repairs or replacement as green roofs are of the most potentially long-lasting roofs if properly maintained with a lifespan of approximately 30-50 years. This is partially due to their ability to protect the underlying roof membrane.

Overall Advantages of a Green/Living Roof

Green roofs are clearly the most environmentally-friendly, sustainable roof style at your disposal, as you may have already figured out. They also offer plenty of other benefits, which include:

  • Trapping storm water, therefore helping to decrease the amount of water run-off and sewage overflows in urban areas
  • Improving the quality of stormwater runoff
  • Maximizing biodiversity in cities – encouraging more varieties of animal and plant life
  • Enhancing aesthetic beauty – Green Roofs are very appealing in terms of the scenic views they offer, especially in city areas where they offer a breath of fresh air in comparison to the usual concrete, asphalt, glass, and metal
  • Functioning as a bio-filter sponge – absorbing dirt, heavy metals, and pollution
  • Creating a view and natural environment which improves the health and quality of life of employees and hospital patients
  • Acting as a sound buffer – insulating against both high and low frequency noises
  • Reducing energy costs and electricity usage
  • Providing Oxygen
  • Offering shade
  • Are long lasting
  • Cooling the air through the process of Evapotranspiration
  • Providing cooling effects in the Summer and insulation during the Winter
  • Counteracting the Urban Heat Island Effect caused by buildings absorbing heat
  • Useful for growing fresh food
  • Provide additional rooftop space which can be used for agriculture or recreation

Disadvantages of a Green/Living Roof

  • They are heavy and require a certain level of structural support
  • High expenses involved in installing and purchasing parts of the roof – at about $15 – $20 per square foot in the United States, for example
  • Installing the roof can be very complicated – we recommend you look for an experienced roofing contractor  to ensure that roof is properly set up
  • Intensive green roofs are high-maintenance



Interested in investing in more innovative, green technology? Or maybe you’d just like to lower costs of running your business? If that’s the case, then a living roof is probably the best option for you.

Would you like to learn more about the green roofs? Our team of experts is here to help. Call us now for a free no obligation estimate at 1.855.582.7263 or fill in the form at the top of the page and we’ll get back to you soon!



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