Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Sustainable garden roofs developed as a new construction material

A Spanish research study has tested different combinations of supports and indigenous plants to determine which are the best for reducing energy consumption inside buildings. This type of roof is a “rurban”, sustainable architectural solution that will lead to a reduction in environmental and acoustic contamination levels in cities, and be visually pleasing.

Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) have built a roof covered with plants and a watering system that will optimise the consumption of a building’s heating and cooling systems thanks to its insulation. It is a third-generation ecological roof, characterised by its sustainability and the use of indigenous plant species.

“The importance of the roofs”, explained Francisco Javier Neila, Professor at the UPM and co-author of the study, to SINC, “is that each geographical area requires the structures and plant species that work best”. In this case, the researchers divided the roof of an experimental building in Colmenar Viejo (Madrid) into 20 modules, and carried out a test with different supports and regional plants based on three factors: the plant growing at a good speed, the density of the biomass perfectly covering the roof and the result being visually attractive.

Indigenous species work better

In winter and summer conditions, the best performing roof has an 8 cm tank that collects rainwater and offers an even irrigation system.

Plants such as sedum (Sedum praealtum) or aptenia (Aptenia cordifolia) provide the best insulation “because they have a thick leaf and are resistant to frosts and heat”, indicated Neila. But each location where an ecological roof is installed will have its own catalogue of plants, starting with indigenous plants “because in its habitat, the plant performs better”.

The researchers also considered covering the roofs with an effective plant and decorating it with another prettier one to fulfil both requirements, but the result is difficult ,“since when a single space is shared by two species, the stronger one will predominate”, Neila explained.

There are a series of superimposed layers under the groundcover. The first is a very light special substrate which helps to drain rainwater quickly so the plant does not drown. Here, the best solution is pine bark crushed and mixed with sewage sludge.

The substrate lies on porous concrete which acts as a sieve for excess water that will end up in the tank, the capacity of which is controlled by raised floor systems similar to those that support the raised floor of an office. The water contained rises up to the roof through capillary action and enables even irrigation. Just before the building’s floor framing, the roof consists of a waterproof sheet which prevents leaks.

Between each layer an extruded polystyrene sheet is inserted which, according to the roof model, can be situated under the porous concrete or beneath the tank. Each layer also includes a sensor that measures temperature and humidity variables which can be compared with data collected by an adjoining weather station for checking any change caused by the roof during the four seasons of the year.

The researchers have also left various modules without an ecological roof to clearly demonstrate its effectiveness. “Roof areas with plants optimise better the heating and cooling of a building than a normal structure, regardless of how well insulated it is”, the expert commented to SINC.

‘Rurban movement’

The design of ecological roofs responds to the challenge of merging urban and rural lifestyles and is being developed in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, the USA and South Africa. Ecological roofs reduce pollution in cities, absorb lead and other organic components. “A forest would be less contaminated with the same intensity of urban pollution", said Neila.

These roofs will help to reduce the temperature of cities, which today are a kind of urban heat island. Scientists have also estimated that acoustic contamination would be reduced to three decibels, thanks to plant absorption.

Groundcover is therefore becoming a new type of building material but development prospects are not positive due to its high price. Neila cites Germany, “where the situation is being resolved with tax benefits, council taxes, increase in suitability for building, which means it does not cost developers so much to invest in this option”.

SINC Team | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>