Rooftop gardens, green living


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Imagine having a farm at work and harvesting lunch?! All fresh, organic garden goodness?  South Africa has seen the light, sown the seeds and office farms have taken root exponentially. Besides being aesthetically pleasing, employees stress levels have decreased with the exposure to roof top gardening.

 Businesses are seen to be extremely advanced if they have roof top gardens, with aspirations to improve wellbeing, productivity, creativity as well as being budget conscious.  Hotels in Cape Town have opted for this route, promoting fresh quality by re-directing their in-house garden herbs and vegetables to their kitchens.


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Service providers provide expertise with regard to greening schemes.  Liaison between Clients, Architects and Engineers are vital to ensure that Clients needs are met, be it ecological, sustainability, or aesthetic.  Roofs need to be flat with an easy access, in a secure location and structurally compliant.  It takes about three days on average to install a corporate garden or one for a small office space.  Vertical gardens are much faster with just about a day and half to install.  Region, climate and design are carefully considered to ensure that each erection is unique and fully functional.

A green roof is simply space that fosters the growth of vegetation. It is made of a waterproofing layer, a root barrier, a drainage system and growing medium for the plants. “Intensive” green roofs, or roof gardens, can be accessible and can include much larger plants and even water features.

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Unlike your typical garden, rooftop gardens relies on two systems: hydroponics and aquaponics. Hydroponics, a subset of hydroculture, basically means the nurturing of plants using mineral nutrient solutions to feed the plants in water, without soil. Aquaponics works along the same belief but with a combination of aquaculture (raising fish). Fish waste has nutrients which is used to feed the plants. Since space is an issue, both these systems are ideal if vertically farmed.  Another excellent method of vertical farming is the green garden bottle system.

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Some forty years ago, our engineering practice sported a social area with a green feel. Whilst this roofing trend has gained more popularity of late, green roofs have been around for centuries.  Focus now is on the technical aspects :

  • Is the foundation safe?
  • Is the roof adequately waterproofed?
  • Will the roof hold the weight of the soil, seating area and other materials?
  • Is the water drainage system adequate?

Countries such Germany, Canada, France and Switzerland have passed laws regulating that all new commercial and residential buildings have at least a partial green living space. India has embraced the idea and Australia is not far behind.

Advantages of green roofs :

  1. Saves money;
  2. Energy efficient, reduces heating and cooling costs;
  3. Reduces storm-water runoff;
  4. Provides commercial space which increases the market value of a property;
  5. Improves the aesthetic environment;
  6. Increases insulation providing savings in air-conditioning costs;
  7. Hiding unsightly flat roofs with greenery;
  8. Low maintenance although a drip line keeps the roof verdant;
  9. Extends the life of waterproofing membrane up to three times;
  10. Improves air quality;
  11. Double as a refuge for some birds;
  12. Re-roofing maintenance costs are less;
  13. Rooftops are used as social and recreational spaces;
  14. Improved aesthetic views for neighbours in adjacent buildings;
  15. Improved worker happiness, productivity and creativity;
  16. Free organic food;
  17. Job creation;
  18. Opportunities for recycling of compost;
  19. Tax incentives;
  20. Excellent rental prospects.

Things to consider :

  • Get professional assistance.
  • Install according to the manufacturer’s specifications by a qualified professional.
  • Every green roof installation should come with a service contract to address annual maintenance

Green roofs can be modular, fast and easy to install or be removed.


Experts argue that green roofs bear considerably more expense than traditional roofs.  Sure, the start-up costs may be slightly higher but over time, they compensate more.  As for maintenance, all roofs require maintenance but the benefits again, are plentiful.  Nervous about the roots of plants penetrating the roof?  Bear in mind, that the service provider will have covered that in his report.  Any futures leaks can be identified by the caretaker of the rooftop garden.  In addition to that, the annual inspection will reveal possible leakages and can be remedied. Sceptics complain about the limited choice of plants but that too can be determined by the structural engineer and the service provider.

Where there is a will, there is a way.  Over-population has taken its toll on the earth, environment, humans and animals.   Since food is a fundamental right, savvy agriculturists have brought farming to the city.  Local labourers have been sourced and given employment. Training has been provided. The produce has reduced levels of food insecurity, providing nutritious food at cost, reduced the need for lengthy transportation to supermarkets and has been donated to the needy.

Planting on rooftops is a feasible ideas due to the lack of space and overpriced lands.  Rooftop gardens look picturesque, provides great views, is energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Life has become infinitely more pleasurable with the added, safer outdoor relaxation areas.

Does the thought of selecting your own fresh herbs and vegetables for lunch (without the hassles of leaving the office), tossing a healthy salad and eating it in an environmentally friendly atmosphere not appeal?

Have you tried rooftop gardening?  Please comment.
If not, perhaps consider it? It is the new frontier for urban gardeners.

Gaurav, Stuart, Anne, Megan,  Brigid  and Subbashini,   what are your ideas on rooftop gardening?


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32 thoughts on “Rooftop gardens, green living

  1. This is stunning! I have a little rooftop garden, but flowering plants mostly and have grown pepper, tomatoes and potatoes in the past. I am inspired all the more to cultivate more 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Black & White Photo Challenge – Take 2

  3. Soooooo inspiring, I wish that there were more businesses out there picking up on the thought of happy and healthy employees. I wish I had a rooftop to work on, would be bliss :o)

    Liked by 2 people

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