Can You Walk on a Green Roof?

Just yesterday I saw three people working on a green roof. To me it looked sketchy. I was unsure whether or not walking would harm the green roof. I did some thorough research and can now confidently give you the answer.

It is possible to walk on a green roof without damaging it. However, do not walk on it regularly and give the roof time to recover between walks. Do not walk on a green roof when the plants are frozen or wet, as they are more prone to damage.

Keeping a green roof is not a difficult task. As it happens with every living thing, they require maintenance and care. If you are interested in green roofs and their advantages, or you are planning to create one in your own building to enjoy them, this article will be of help. Keep on reading and learn some tips that will help you along the way!

Can You Walk on a Green Roof?

Whether you are maintaining a green roof for yourself as a hobby or for somebody else as a job, it is crucial to consider that they require a careful user. Even though plants, in general, may not seem like hard work to keep alive, the fact that they spread throughout a big surface means quite a challenge. Taking care of your living roof implies walking on it, and some precautions must be contemplated.

Walking on a green roof does not necessarily imply harming it. As harsh as stepping on a plant may seem, you can do this without fear. However, doing so repeatedly does not let the plant heal itself properly, and that is why you should do all things you know your living roof needs in the same walk. If you happen to forget something after walking on it, give the plants some recovery days to not interrupt their healing process.

If you happen to live in a place where cold seasons tend to be roughly cold, this brings another factor of vital importance. Wet plants are more sensible and prone to damage when stepped on, so walks must be done more cautiously. Moreover, frozen vegetation, due to the water plants consume, may get easily cracked or torn when stepped on. You should avoid stepping on them during these days. Nevertheless, if you consider it urgent, you can do so with extra care to avoid harm.

As a final tip to take care of your living roof when walking on it, it is a good idea to keep track of the path you took the previous time. In this way, you can avoid repeating it, thus giving your plants even more time to heal. Always try not to step on the same plant over and over, and they will thank you for your effort and care by spreading in good health and beauty.

How Long Does a Green Roof Last?

When you decide to invest in a green roof, one of the main concerns is how long it will last. This can be measured in two different ways. One of them is to talk about the plants’ life, surviving in an environment that is not quite natural. The other is to talk about how much your roof will endure having an ecosystem built on it.

When talking about the vegetation of a living roof, we can refer to those that were built in 1960’s Europe. These buildings with green roofs have proved to last for at least 30 years. With proper care and maintenance, we can extend a green roof’s lifespan to 50 years of life. Although, and taking a plant’s life as a reference, they may even last longer. There are certain products you can use to help extend your living roof’s life.

As for your rooftop’s lifespan as a green roof, it is fair to say that the vegetation will act as a protection, but it may become a threat in time without proper care. Plants tend to find their way through cracks and crevices and spread their roots, causing leaks or moisture. One way to avoid this, and to help your roof and the vegetation co-exist in good health, is to apply a membrane to the surface. This will create a barrier between one another, isolating and protecting both parts.

What Are the Benefits of Having a Green Roof?

Even though the benefits of vegetation are of popular knowledge, green roofs provide a plus to the inhabitants, both inside and around the building where they are built. By creating a green roof, you are producing benefits for yourself and your neighborhood. Some of the advantages of having a living roof are, but are still not limited to:

  • Reducing air pollution. Plant respiration and photosynthesis processes help reduce pollution created by chemical fumes such as cars, factories, or other artificial contamination types while producing oxygen.
  • Heat mitigation. Vegetation absorbs and retains sun heat. This process is even more effective than those offered by constructing materials that ensure isolation. Besides, it is self-sustainable as it does not require replacing it after a period of time.
  • Water filtering. Keeping vegetation in a green roof is a great way of avoiding floods. As plants naturally require water to live, they will act as a great filter for your rooftop. Besides, this water absorption helps decrease any pollutants in it, preventing them from leaking into your building’s system.
  • Economic relief. Building a green roof creates a beautiful scene and provides a natural insulator besides the required built-in one. This makes it easier to regulate the temperature inside the building. Heating in winter and cooling in summer, a living roof will decrease the effort and time required by any electrical device to do so.
  • Biodiversity. Green roofs provide an ecosystem that complements biodiversity. When built in urban areas, these living roofs are a great way of ensuring a wildlife habitat.

Different Types of Green Roofs

There are three main types of green roofs: extensive, semi-intensive, and intensive. They differ in use, maintenance, cost, and type of vegetation. Take a look at this chart to see which living roof suits you and your rooftop the best.

SpecificationsExtensive Green RoofSemi-Intensive Green RoofIntensive Green Roof
UseWorks as an ecological protection layer for the rooftop. Insulates, absorbing heat, cold, and water.Aims to a decorative style, while also providing protection to the rooftop.Resembles a small park. Protects and provides habitat for varied wildlife.
MaintenanceLow maintenance. Requires watering and periodical trimming.Medium maintenance. Watering, trimming and pesticides may be needed.High maintenance. Regular watering, trimming for growth control. Pesticides tend to be a must.
Type of VegetationMoss, herbs, grassGrass, herbs, shrubs.Grass, perennials, small trees.

Other Tips to Keep Your Green Roof Healthy.

Despite the high relevance of walking on a green roof without meaning any harm to it, there are other key factors to consider if you want yours to be healthy and attractive to the sight.

Pest control is a crucial factor to keep in mind regarding green roof maintenance. Keeping insects, mice, termites, and any other possible threat away from your living roof will ensure safety for both your vegetation and your building. Remember that anything that walks -or crawls- on your roof is inches away from getting into the building too. Besides, these pests also mean a hazard to the rooftop material. Pests may form crevices and, thus, leaks because of them.

Finally, watering is another key element. You should know what type of green roof you would want to build on your rooftop and the type of vegetation you decide to use. Each species requires a different amount of water to live, and overwatering them may result not only in the poor health of your plants but also in little pools around them. This causes them to decay, rot and is also very dangerous for the rooftop the green roof is built on.


My name is Bart and I'm a 23 year old Dutch engineering student. I'm confident that green roofs are part of the future, which is why I want to learn all about them!

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