Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reading List: Green Roof Systems

My good friends at Wiley sent me a copy of the long-awaited 'Green Roof Systems: A Guide to the Planning, Design, and Construction of Landscapes over Structure' by Susan K Weiler and Katrin Scholz-Barth. At first glance, the book is not remarkably pretty, which is usually a sign of a reference that aims for substance over style.

:: image via Amazon

A quick page through confirmed this suspicion, as this book is loaded with valuable information. Similar to other must-have references, this is not a book you read cover-to-cover, but zoom into tidbits of information, and check on questions related to all facets of rooftop design and construction. The book provides a bit of preface and context of the larger picture of green roofs from concept and planning - but this is not the strong selling point. That comes in the details.

:: image via Green Roof Systems

And there are details. The structure of the book guides a reader through systems, materials, documentation, structure, bidding and construction, and touching on liability and maintenance. This isn't a cursory discussion either but in depth information on a number of issues and the less fun 'essentials' of sucessful ecoroof design, such as specification writing, O&M manuals, and the nuances of structural systems - all the while providing a broad range of project types and components.

:: image via Green Roof Systems

The book does tend to favor the intensive, inhabitable rooftop terrace as opposed to the more extensive 'eco' roof, which is fine as the complexity is much more immense. I believe the evolution of the genre will further the separation of these deeper rooftops from the thinner systems - although the terminology continues to be fuzzy. There is also a reliance on many iterations of Olin projects (HannaOlin, Olin Partnership, and now merely a single word: OLIN, kind of like 'Cher' or 'Madonna') This is a bit limiting in regional scope, but guess is inevitable. I imagine it's a product of the authors experience, which is pretty comprehensive, but it'd be interesting to see how, say, the WaMu center building detailing stacked up to some east coast examples. Perhaps it merely my west coast bias showing through :)

There are some great items worth noting that are absent in other publications - probably best considered a much-needed update to the seminal work 'Roof Gardens: History, Design, and Construction' by Theodore Osmundson, which has long contained the most technical, albeit dated, information. Two sections that I've had to search for in the past for good information, which are covered in detail include roofing membranes and the connection between rooftop weights and the growth of vegetation.

:: image via Green Roof Systems

As I was at our booth recently for the Ecoroof Vendor Fair, I brought along a large stack of some of my favorite Veg.itecture books, which run the gamut from simplistic to visually stunning to essential. I was somewhat dumbstruck when someone asked me what the one book I would recommend for green roof design was - half because I was thinking 'who only wants to buy one book?' and half because I just didn't have the answer. While to sell the idea and provide stunning visuals and idea generation, other books offer much greater visual stimuli, this may be the only one you should probably own if you are serious about building landscape on structure.


  1. Thanks for the great review! Sorry I am only a year late in reading it!

    I found another list of books you may be interested in, including the one you discussed, at Clean Air through Green roofs. ( It was posted recently, so it may include some newer volumes.

    Thanks again!


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