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July 23, 2009 @ 11:47 am
The Swiss Green Roof Invasion

You should expect a decidedly international flavor on my blog in the coming weeks as I continue to receive visitors from around the world and am sticking to my promise to cover each originating country. 23 countries are represented so far with recent visits from Bulgaria, Italy, Ireland, Singapore and Spain.

Since the 1970’s, green roofs have become ever more popular in Switzerland. Successful city pilot programs in the 80’s and 90’s have led to sustained campaigns and federal policies have been carried out at the city level. Basel, for instance, requires green roofs on all new developments with flat roofs greater than 100m2. According to a paper titled “From Pilot to Mainstream: Green Roofs in Basel Switzerland,” Basel had 1711 extensive green roofs and 218 intensive green roofs that covered 23% of the city’s flat roof area by 2006. Additionally, the latest campaign is expected to save 3.1 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually.

Extensive green roofs are non-recreational, contain limited growth plants, require little maintenance and are of a shallow depth (several inches); making them lighter and easier to install on existing rooftops. Meanwhile, intensive green roofs are often recreation friendly, more garden-like, require higher maintenance and are deeper (at least 8 inches); making them more common for new construction. To learn more you can actually go on a Green Roof Safari across Germany and Switzerland – no kidding.

I’ve discussed many benefits of green roofs on my products page, but one I didn’t mention was cleaner urban air and I can anecdotally confirm that Switzerland has some of the cleanest air I’ve breathed in all my travels (~30 countries). Another benefit is their potential contribution to biodiversity. Recently, Switzerland began to emphasize this use to conserve various plants and animals. The picture below from LivingRoofs.org shows Zurich’s rail platform roofs which were designed to resemble a stony desert in order to conserve a rare, local lizard.

zurich_rail_roof

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