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9 Homes With Living Roofs


Green roofs have been around for centuries in Northern Scandanavia, but they’ve really only become a popular trend in the last few decades. Recognized now for their ability to reduce the urban heat island effect while also reducing heat loss and energy consumption in winter months – among many other benefits – green roofs are really taking off, all around the world. And these aren’t just your average pieces of sod plopped on top of a building, either. These roofs are meant to be seen, designed by the artistically inclined in newfound attempts to express and flex their creativity.

1. Meera Sky Garden House, Singapore

The top roof of this modern home on the island of Sentosa (adjacent to the main island Singapore) is slow growing and easy to maintain carpet grass but still keeps the residence cool, according to Guz Wilkinson of Guz Architects. Wilkinson designed the home in a new development where the plots are not large and homes are built close together. A solid wall provides privacy to each side and the home’s layered effect makes each story feel like a single-story dwelling with a private outdoor garden.

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2. Contemporary Cottage, Bay Village, Ohio

Situated steps from Lake Erie, the owners of this three-bedroom cottage wanted to include as many green elements as possible when they renovated three years ago. Cleveland architect Robert Maschke used a steel roof on the original portion but suggested a sloped green roof and vertical wall for the exterior of a new master bedroom suite.

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3. The Pierre, San Juan Islands, Washington

Literally drilled and dynamited into a rock outcropping, this home by Seattle’s Olson Kundig Architects was named the “Pierre,” or “stone” in French. The bunker-like home has a green grass flat roof that blends from above and behind like a carpet into the surrounding foliage and landscape. From certain angles, it practically disappears into nature. The glass-walled front, however, provides a full view of a deep lake and broad sky. The roof isn’t the only natural feature — the interior and exterior fireplaces as well as the master bathroom sink and powder room, were carved out of the rock that extrudes into the home.

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4. Summerhouse, Litchfield, Connecticut

The green roof installed on this modern home last year reduces its heating and cooling costs and provides sound insulation. Green roofs also reduce storm water runoff and filter pollutants and carbon dioxide.

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5. Wind Dancer, Sonoma County, California

Set on a sloped site, with a slightly curved roof, the grasses and diverse plantings on this countryside stucco abode blow and sway with the wind. Cascading branches of rosemary are also beginning to cascade over the 778-square-foot roof edge. When this two bedroom split level was extensively remodeled two years ago, the focus was on having a living roof that would blend in with the surrounding hills and be visible from all parts of the property. To achieve that, tall flowering plants had to be used as well as native woody shrubs.

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6. Natural Balance, Vancouver, Canada

Nick Kerchum, an owner of naturalbalancehomes.com in Vancouver, Canada, built himself a green home with a green roof in 2009. It has three living roofs blazing with pink and fuschia-toned plants, one on the garage, one on the top roof next to the roof next and one on the main level roof. The garden is completely self-sufficient. It doesn’t need to be watered or pruned.

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7. House Ocho, Carmel Valley, California

Built into a hillside, each of the three pavilions in this contemporary 2,700-square-foot compound — a main residence, separate master suite and guest wing — has a low maintenance green roof with grasses, strawberry plants and bright red poppies. Architect Jonathan Feldman, who built the vacation home for his parents, said the green roofs help the residence blend even more with the landscape.

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8. Pacific Heights Townhouse, San Francisco, California

Some green roofs aren’t just for plants. In urban areas where outdoor space is limited and the views are best from the top, residents use them, too, says architect Jonathan Feldman. To get more greenery and less concrete in his clients’ lives, Feldman placed living areas on the top floor of this 1906 stucco-clad Victorian (he also added skylights). A large portion of the rear space was removed to make space for a roof garden and outdoor lounge space.

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9. Nine Houses, Dietikon, Switzerland

This set of nine houses built in 1993 by architect Peter Vetsch were made out of concrete and buried in earth and grass. They remind of modern hobbit houses.

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