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  • Climate and microclimate (roof height, sun and wind exposure, and average precipitation)

  • Roof slope, the age of the  waterproofing membrane, and building HVAC systems

  • Structural capacity, including dead load and live load

  • Accessibility for ongoing maintenance and egress

  • Rainwater harvesting and drain locations

  • A water source for irrigation and a power source for installation or lighting, if needed.

  • City sustainability requirements, building codes, and insurance requirements

  • Growing zones: NYC is growing zone 7, but green roofs may be closer to a zone 5 depending on wind and exposure

When designing a green roof, it is important to consider the environment, intent, and building requirements.


The information below can help you get started, but it is not intended to be comprehensive green roof installation or maintenance manual. It is strongly advised to hire a professional design-build firm consultant to guide you through the design process, assist with procuring funding and permits, and safely install and maintain your green roof. Assess the following elements to help determine the roof’s design.

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Before Installing a Green Roof


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The height of the green roof, its exposure to wind, its orientation to the sun, and shading by surrounding buildings during all parts of the day. The area’s general climate and microclimate on the roof must also be considered.


Before adding a green roof, a structural engineer will need to analyze the building’s current weight-bearing capacity to determine if the roof can support a green roof system or if additional reinforcement is required. Also consider the size, slope, height and directional orientation of the roof.


Loading guide (saturated weights)
Extensive green roof: 12 to 30 lb/sqft
Intensive green roof: 40 to 102 lb/sqft

Project Goals & Intended Use

  • Aesthetics and access for tenants or the general public

  • Food production

  • Wildlife habitat

  • Stormwater management

  • Minimizing building energy usage

  • Sound absorption

  • Green building certification or policy requirement

  • General access to the roof for installation and maintenance


Green Roof Installation Checklist

  1. Determine project budget
  2. Assemble a design team
  3. Establish design, installation, and maintenance goals
  4. Conduct life cycle cost analysis
  5. Determine the project timeline
  6. Determine available green roof financial incentives
  7. Conduct a site analysis
  8. Determine the type of green roof desired based on goals and budget
  9. Design green roof
  10. Install bird-friendly glass elements
  11. Create a maintenance plan
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Maintenance is critical to a green roof’s long-term success. It includes watering, weeding, harvesting, and checking for eroded growth medium (soil). During its first two years, the establishment period, a green roof requires more intensive care.

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Soil health

Fertilizers have the potential to make your crops extremely productive
but at a cost. Synthetic fertilizers are costly and 
also emit greenhouse gases during production and contribute to runoff into waterways. Alternatives to

synthetic fertilizer apply the compost that you make at home from food waste directly onto your soil or "compost tea."

Some crops are more nutrient heavy than others. It is important to rotate where you grow your crops every growing season to keep the nutrients in your soil diverse. In between planting season, crop covers can replenish the soil of nutrients and protect soil from erosion.

Chemical pesticides can damage your soil as the chemicals can
harm the microbiota community that keeps your soil in tip-top shape!
It is important to combat pests, and a great natural pesticide can
include ladybugs, spiders, and other carnivorous insects.

Tilling your soil can make the planting season easier but depending on the depth can cause soil erosion. Tilling damages the soil structure, breaks up
established microbiota communities, and causes compaction
to your soil, making it harder for crops to establish roots. In-between planting season, plant a cover crop.

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