Living Plant Surfaces

Basic info is found in Chapter 10.

Exterior surfaces can be protected with living plants. These can be divided into two groups: planted roofs and wall coverings of climbing plants.

Very positive environmental qualities result from the use of plants as living surface treatments. The methods are simple, and the plant and earth resources are infinite and can be used directly from their source. The potential negative environmental aspects are small. A caveat, however, is the need for waterproofing under a planted roof, which must be either a bituminous product or plastics-based on polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene or ethylene-propylene rubber (EPDM). Trellis-work for wall coverings impregnated with toxic substances will have a negative environmental impact.

Earth in itself has unlimited durability; it is mainly the waterproofing layer that decides the life of a green roof. Leakage problems and damage usually arise around flashings, where pipes, chimneys, etc. penetrate the roof. For plant claddings the durability of the trelliswork is critical.

Earth removed from roofs returns to the soil. Waterproofing layers of plastics can, in theory, be cleaned and recycled, but this is seldom done in practice. Impregnated trelliswork must be deposited at special tips. Bituminous materials, plastics and impregnated wood can be recycled for energy. When burning plastics and bitumen, the emissions of carbon dioxide will be the same as with fossil fuels. From the burning of products of polyvinyl chloride dioxins will be emitted. Ash must be deposited at special tips.

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