The Loh Down On Science

Roof Grass

Want to really go green? Plant your roof!

Once you've torn those shingles out of your roof--what'll you plant?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with The Loh Down on Science.

And news on the world's first sustainable... thatched roof?

Well, why not cover the entire roof of a building with living plants? Besides fighting air pollution, plants are great insulators.

Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Madrid have been studying designs for "ecological roofs." They coated a roof with a nutritious bed of sewage and installed automated irrigation and drainage systems. Then they planted.

The most cost-effective solution they found used indigenous frost- and heat-resistant plant species with thick leaves. What about mixing and matching? Some edelweiss with your bluegrass, perhaps? Sadly, the scientists report that in the confined space atop most buildings, disparate species often refuse to cohabitate, killing off all but one.

For now, giving every building in downtown Madrid a groundcover toupee would be prohibitively expensive. Which is too bad. Because the researchers say that softening that hard skyline could also reduce noise levels.

Except on weekends, with everyone clomping upstairs... to mow the roof.


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