Rooftop gardening and why they’re more than beautiful green spaces

Urban gardening is fast catching up in most Indian metros. But there’s more to this seemingly hipster trend than the cosmetic value of having a balcony or terrace full of greenery to enjoy. With the need to increase green spaces within ever-expanding cities becoming a high priority for urban dwellers, it’s a good time to look at some of the benefits of this, beyond the aesthetic.

Energy efficiency

Countries like Canada, Switzerland and France already have laws regulating the need for all commercial and residential buildings to have some form of rooftop garden, motivated mostly by the environmental and energy conservation benefits. According to some sources, it was calculated that the temperature in Tokyo could be lowered by 0.11–0.84° C if 50% of all available rooftop space were planted with greenery, leading to a savings of approximately 100 million yen.

Primarily, green roofs reduce the impact of heat directly on the surface of the roof, thereby reducing the amount of energy expended in cooling or heating the building. The same green cover acts as a protector from direct sunlight and heat, cooling the building in summer, and creates an insulating layer that provides a layer of warmth in winter. This not only reduces spends on electricity, but also provides a sustainable solution for conserving that energy in the long run. Moreover, energy conservation also means less greenhouse gas emissions.

Improved air quality

Your lungs will definitely thank you for the extra greenspace, increased oxygen supply and clearer air quality. Green cover, by nature, traps dust particles from the air providing a place to settle, where evapotranspiration also aids cooling of the environment and together this significantly reduces the presence of smog. Cutting the distribution of dust in the air and therefore the levels of smog also decreases greenhouse emissions.

Plants also reduce and further filter pollutants and other particle matter in the air, through the constant process of photosynthesis. Therefore, the more rooftop gardens there are in any urban area, the greater the benefit.

Effective management of rainwater

Even though it is common knowledge that more trees ensures better rainfall, and rainwater management, one of the seriously underrated advantages of rooftop gardens is the ability to contain storm-water runoff. Green cover helps retain precipitation within the water cycle by absorption which is then returned to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration.

A rooftop garden is perfect to make the most of the rain in a country prone to strong monsoons. Plants use rain immediately, effectively and also store excesses for later use. It is said that up to 80% of rainfall maybe retained through rooftop gardens. Imagine the benefits of all that returning to the atmosphere through transpiration and evaporation!

Natural habitats and healthier eco-systems

Rooftop gardens provide safe habitats for animals, birds, butterflies and bees, amongst other creatures. Where there is an increase in green cover, or density of plant life, one can expect an increase in the presence of these and other little animals, birds and insects, essential for the ecological balance. A richer biodiversity has innumerable lesser-visible and unknown benefits that impact the immediate environment positively.

Space efficiency

Rooftops tend to otherwise be the most underused spaces in urban settlements. Green roofs are an excellent way to make use of that space while also providing a number of sustainable, ecological benefits to not just residents of the building but the neighbouring environment too. These green spaces could make for great areas for residents to enjoy the lung space, socialise, engage in recreation and other social engagements. Moreover, it provides an avenue for enthusiasts with a green thumb to contribute in a community effort towards urban gardening or agriculture.

Allied, miscellaneous benefits

The truth is a rooftop garden does need attention, constant maintenance and tending to. However, this is a benefit more than it is a challenge. Creating a mini eco-system like this automatically creates an avenue for other sustainable habits useful for any urban dweller to engage in today. For example, the rooftop garden is a perfect reason to start that community composting project to recycle and manage all the biodegradable kitchen waste generated in the building. Second, for people living in apartments without the luxury of large open spaces in which to garden, a rooftop garden is an efficient and effective solution. Vertical gardening is another option worth exploring. These use much less space than traditional gardening. Rooftop gardens encourage other environmentally responsible practices like segregation of waste, healthy disposal of plastic and an increase in the community’s responsibility in doing their little bit to reduce their carbon footprint.