Thursday, 3 April 2014

Green roofs bring nature back into your life

Green or living roofs can be designed to be planted onto almost any structure big or small commercial or residential.

If pictures tell more than a thousand words then the pictures that follow certainly tell it all

Here I am sitting on the roof of a five storey building considering what to write about green roofs on this Blog which to many may be hard to believe at first.

Over to the right you can see the bench that I was sitting on with a magnificent natural pond in front of it.

Here is a view of the path leading to the pond in the photo above through a beautifully natural garden planted entirely to locally occurring South African plants. From seeing the photos it is hard to believe that I could possibly be on the roof of a five storey building.

Below provision has been made for an open area to allow for those attending functions to spill out on to the lawn and to enjoy the view of the area.

This Green Roof at 29 Degrees South which is planted exclusively to our local floral treasures is a very fine  example of what can be done when there is the ethic and the will to bring nature together in harmony with man in the design of our buildings and our living and working environments. This is a very good case of leading by example, hopefully and example that many will follow in preserving our natural heritage by combining our unique South African flora and fauna into our urban developments. In this way we can become trend setters leading the world by example.

All the  photos of the green roofs so far have been taken on the green roof of  29degrees South a five story building which was designed for and houses the head office of Dube TradePort which is situated right next to the new King Shaka International Airport north of Durban. 

A very different style of green roof has been created using a large number of local plant species that grow in rocky places and in grassland on very shallow soils to create a bio-diverse Green Roof. This Bio-Diverse Green Roof which I designed and planted to bring the maximum bio-diversity possible is on a government office building at Ixopo in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands

Below is a bio-diverse green roof that I designed and planted on the sand pumping station on the Durban beach front at the entrance to Durban harbour. The plants on this roof are exposed to very extreme conditions caused by the strong salt laden north easterly winds that blow in this particular totally unprotected location.

Below is an example of what can be done by the average home owner on a very small scale around your own home to add interest. The small green roof has purposely not been completed at this stage to be able to show the construction details. When designing and completing your own green roof a cladding will need to be added to hide the growing trays as have been used in this design or to contain the growing medium if no trays are used to make it look finished.

You can create the same effect when planing your next hotel; office park, factory, home, garage or other construction project. It is clearly well worth considering creating a living roof in place of a sterile tile, iron or concrete one all it needs is a little imagination and forward planning on your part and the part of your design team.

The building of a Green roof is a good way to increase the Bio-diversity and interest a of a boring sterile site as in the photo below, in addition green roofs are often good places to grow many plants that do not grow well in deep soils or where there is competition from other plants growing nearby.

Having a green roof can bring nature into direct contact with our offices and dwellings where it can be observed with great ease.
A green roof can merge the landscape with the structures we create in a seamless manner bringing the landscape design right up to onto and into our living spaces.

Green roofs soften the look of our structures and gives them life, they also lessen our impact on the natural environment in which we live in many ways.

The example has been set it is now up to you the reader whether you are an architect, a landscape architect, a property developer or a home owner to take the lead and carry it a step further every one can do there bit.

The Ecoman Green Team Hlengiwe and Michael on a green roof we designed and planted for the eThekwini Municipality in Durban a few years ago.

For those wanting to know a little more about green roofs go to; An Introduction to Designing Green Roofs in South Africa their design, construction and care at my website at


  1. Fantastic, if I built my own house from scratch I most certainly would have it designed with a completely green roof. Not is it only environmentally sound but it looks so nice too, it blends so well and it opens up a whole new gardening canvas to explore. Just think of the thousands upon thousands of square kilometres of sterile suburban roof top that could be thriving eco systems up there instead!

    The sky's the limit, pun fully intended.