Living Walls, Green Roofs, and the Heat Island Effect

Installing Living Walls and Green Roofs not only provide a refreshing natural aesthetic in a concrete jungle, they also reduce electrical costs and help combat the heat island effect. The heat island effect is an urban phenomenon in which a bubble of heat surrounds a city.

The bubble is caused by the development of urban populations (generally 1 million +) and the expansion and conversion of natural, moist land into skyscrapers and other dry masses. This conversion drastically increases the temperature of urban environments because there is less land absorbing heat, and an increasing amount of urban structures (skyscrapers, shopping centers etc…) amplifying it.

As Green Builders at EcoBrooklyn, we strive to reduce the heat island effect by creating Living Walls, Green Roofs, and gardens that absorb heat and give back clean air into the environment. While Green Roofs are costly to install, research shows that they are more durable than standard roofing, and depending on the size, can drastically reduce the temperature around a home, which in turn lowers the amount of electricity needed for cooling throughout the hot summer.

Green Roof technology is equally as useful in the wintertime as the insulation it provides effectively seals the house off from bitter cold temperatures- reducing the amount of electricity, or gas needed to heat the house. Aside from temperature stability, Green Roofs reduce the chance of urban flooding by retaining excess rainwater and slowly releasing it over time, preventing the sewer system from overflowing.

Green Roof1

Show House Green Roof

Living Walls function similarly to Green Roofs in terms of temperature stability and energy reduction, but they do not have the same benefits of water retention for urban flooding. Living Walls are a great way to infuse nature to the interior or exterior of a home and they are relatively easy to install.


Living Wall Prototype


Living Walls can be as simple or complex as the individual wants. EcoBrooklyn intern, Adam Horowitz, recently revamped a previous Living Wall prototype made from a fan cover and other salvaged materials. The barred fan cover provides an ideal growing space for most plants as it has deep and rounded area for soil to be packed in and filled with roots. Living Walls are extremely convenient for apartments or homes with limited soil space. Vertical planting is a great way to take advantage of unused space while cleaning and cooling the air around your home.


Living Wall Prototype

About the author: adam.horowitz

Upper West Side, Rising senior at The Calhoun School

2 comments to “Living Walls, Green Roofs, and the Heat Island Effect”

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  1. Chris - July 1, 2013 at 10:14 am

    That is a good question. It is true that a green roof or wall can freeze and not add much heat above the freezing point. But, like an igloo, it does offer a buffer to the cold wind, cocooning the house. If the outside temp is lower than freezing then the wall or roof will deffinitely offer insulation. If the outside temp is near freezing then the benefit is mostly protection from the wind, which can make things feel a lot colder. Think “wind chill factor”. The other benefit of a green roof or wall is that it creates a mass buffer to temp changes. As the outside temp can change quickly from night to day, the roof or wall takes longer to change temp. This buffer in temp change can be very effective. It lowers the peaks and valleys of outdoor temp. If the outdoor temp swings from above freezing to minus 4 overnight and then back again, the wall or roof could reduce that drastic swing in temp. drastically.

  2. Sam - June 20, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Adam, once a green or living living roof get wet doesn’t that negate the insulating properties in the winter time?

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