The Ottawa Citizen, “Turf on top: Affordable eco-technology creates living roofs, lush walls…”

Posted on: June 18th, 2009 by Heather


We haven’t had a lot of luck with the ELT system. Personally, we feel that the plastic trays don’t give enough opportunity for the roots to establish themselves, so you get poor plant performance. Also, its kind of funny that the home owner portrayed in this article refers to people who want a green roof they don’t have to maintain as ‘green fanatics’ – seems like a pretty realistic and attainable goal to us! (Note: Maybe we’re fanatics?). If we had our choice, we’d use a system that didn’t require constant watering. All the same, this article is a good starting point if you’re interested in putting a green roof on a residential residence.

Here’s the article from the Ottawa Citizen.

CREDIT: Pat McGrath, the Ottawa Citizen

Saturday » November  22 » 2008

Turf on top

Affordable eco-technology creates living roofs, lush walls in your local coffee shop

Patrick Langston

The Ottawa Citizen

When Dave Cherry decided to build his home three years ago, he discovered a green problem. He found his solution

on the roof. Co-owner of Ottawa’s Job Done Construction Ltd. (, Cherry was

planning a 2,100-square-foot home for a small lot in Hintonburg. “My wife and I said, ‘By the time we put a house on it, there won’t be too much yard space. So why don’t we green the roof?’ ” He did just that two months ago, using a system by Elevated Landscape Technologies (ELT) of Brantford, Ont.

Cherry is now Ottawa’s only certified ELT installer and his home boasts 850 square feet of greenery where you’d least expect to find it.

The technology is simple. Suitable for flat and gently sloped roofs, it consists of three-foot by three-foot plastic panels with about an inch of soil in them and a design that maximizes capillary water distribution. The panels are pre-

planted with sedum, a low-growing plant that can weather dry spells and produces pink, yellow and white flowers.

The green roof includes an automated irrigation system that kicks in if there’s been no rain for two weeks, says Cherry, although “if you’re an ideological green roof fanatic, you won’t water it. But then it’ll die.” At $13 a square foot, including irrigation, green roofs are budget stretchers but not breakers. Weighing about 15 pounds per square foot even after a good soaking, the greenery won’t break your roof. A roof-top membrane keeps the water on the outside of your house.

Before opting for the ELT system, Cherry tried test plots of sod, but the combination of thin soil, wind and heat meant daily watering, a non-starter for an environmentally conscious guy who built his home of largely recycled

materials. ”The primary benefit for me is it can reduce the energy I use for cooling my house by 50 per cent,” he says. “All the sun’s energy that was heating up the roof is used by the plants for growing.” Just think of the difference in temperature between your driveway and your grass on a hot day, he says.

Put enough green roofs in place, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with air conditioning plummet. And while Cherry says most green roofs have minimal winter insulating value, they do filter carbon dioxide, reduce the urban heat island effect, and even provide habitat for birds and bees.

Europe — no surprise — is ahead of us here, with more than 10 per cent of all flat roofs in Germany being green.

As well, set-up is simple. Cherry and two helpers spent a day installing the greenery on his second and third storeys. The panels are easily removed for roof maintenance, and the greenery, although not suitable for foot traffic, looks great. His third-storey green roof surrounds a deck. “We have dinner out there in the summer. My son and I put a tent up and had a sleepover.”

If your roof’s pitch is steep, you can still green it, but the cost jumps. That’s because you’ll need to install a Living Wall, ELT’s system for exterior walls. The principle is basically the same as for the flat roof system, but the more complex potting and irrigation design translates into costs hovering at about $65 a square foot. Then again, you might want to just move the whole shebang inside for year- round pleasure.

Interior Living Walls are catching on in Ottawa, at least among businesses. Bridgehead’s newest coffee shop at 1172 Bank St. features Cherry’s indoor handiwork. His company also installed a wall at Bridgehead’s 224 Dalhousie St. location and has other projects on the drawing board.

“Our customers love it,” says Josh Elvin, a shift supervisor at the Bank Street Bridgehead. “I like it because I’m an outdoorsy person. It blends in with our philosophy of organic coffee.”

Because they use lush, tropical plants, Indoor Living Walls cost $100 a square foot, making them a luxury item, says Cherry. On the other hand, ”being on the wall, it’s very jungle feeling and we don’t have jungles in Canada. It shakes you out of your usual frame of reference. People find it uplifting.”

Green Side Up appears every second weekend in Style Weekly Homes.

Patrick Langston can be reached at

© The Ottawa Citizen 2007

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CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.