Redefining Urban Gardens: Greening Roofs with Sod

sod roof
image: Percita

Interest in urban farming has generated creative uses of space, with many rooftops turning into skyscraping gardens. And another trend is filling in green building tops: sod roofs.

While a food-producing rooftop’s payoff is pretty obvious (and delicious!), what are the benefits to one covered in grass, shrubs and flowers? Quite a few, according to Chelsea Green. “The temperature moderating effect caused by 5 to 6 inches of earth on the roof helps keep a house cooler in summer and warmer in winter, especially in extreme climates; 14 inches of decomposing straw will have the same effect while adding some insulation for a while. Such roofs are therefore a prime choice for cold-climate houses built with a high degree of insulation for maximum comfort.” There’s also the benefit of wind and noise protection: “A city house built with bales and covered with an organic roof will become a peaceful retreat at any time of day, even in areas with dense traffic. On particularly windy sites, such a roof anchors the house to the ground physically as well as visually.”

sod roof
image: roger 4336

And while an edible rooftop or urban garden is more expensive and requires constant maintenance, a sod-covered roof can be particularly affordable and self-regulating. It can also extend the life of the roof and help mitigate storm runoff damage.

Sod roofs attract birds, who can help to keep pests away and, of course, bring you many moments of beautiful contemplation. Green rooftops can clean the air, which benefits you and your neighbors.

sod roof
image: pnwra

Almost 10 percent of all of Germany’s rooftops are green and regulations in Tokyo, Toronto and Switzerland require specific sized roofs to be green. And here in the U.S., reports World Changing, Chicago has begun planning and installing more than 200 green roofs throughout the city.

Need some sod rooftop ideas? Here are a few favorites:

From Malung Hembygdsgård in Sweden.  

Norway has quite a few.

This site is full of gorgeous sod rooftops!

Apartment Therapy loves green roofs.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger


Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.