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Awesome Roofs That Do More Than Cover Your Head

Roofs are often the most neglected part of the house, something we worry about only when the wind blows off a tile or two during a big storm. But roofs can also be solar energy generators, valuable eco systems and excellent rainwater harvesters. In short, your roof could be the key to reducing that carbon footprint and behaving in a more sustainable, and ultimately cost-effective, way.

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Solar Panels

Wikipedia / Via

More and more of us are considering if solar panels are a good idea or not. And the good news is that many people are beginning to see the light (if you’ll excuse the pun). In the UK there is one big incentive for domestic and commercial premises to start getting the solar bug – the government’s Feed in Tariff which means that private electricity producers can receive an income from selling their power to the National Grid.

Worldwide there are some incredible projects going on with solar energy, with architects and designers coming together to create truly innovative roof structures.

In Perugia, Italy, Coop Himmelb(l)au have installed a combined solar and wind structure that looks impressive, with a canopy stretching over the space between two buildings. The west side holds the solar cells whilst the east catches the prevailing winds. It could just be the start of the exciting way in which architects look at solar installations in the years to come.

Getting those solar panels up high is also something designers have been working on. We’re all used to seeing them on our houses but in New York they’ve installed Solar PV on the 50 storey Deutsche Bank and, not only that, they’ve designed it so that it looks part of the building.

London City Hall is one of the most amazing solar structures in the UK with 617 solar panels in a building that was designed by Foster and Partners.

Green Roofs / Via

More popular across the rest of the world than perhaps in the UK, Green Roofs are none the less beginning to make an impact, particularly in city areas such as London. On a large scale they provide habitats for wildlife, reduce the effect of rainwater and flooding but on a smaller, domestic scale they also cut down on heat loss that helps to reduce fuel bills.

Taken to the extreme, a roof garden can provide a brilliant place to hang out on high-rise buildings as in this example from New York City. With a range of foliage and places to sit and relax, it has everything a city dweller needs to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. In fact, New York has been a prime mover in the development of green roofs because of the problems they’ve had with heavy rainfall – installing these green spaces actually helps reduce the effect of excessive rain on the city’s drains and infrastructure.

Take a look at Namba Park in Japan from the air and you’ll get a whole new perspective on how green our city spaces can be. The eight level rooftop garden even has cliffs and canyons built into the structure to make it look more dramatic.

Fortunately a green roof doesn’t have to be the modern day equivalent of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, even a small installation on a domestic roof can make a big difference to the environment and those ever increasing fuel bills.

Rainwater Harvesting / Via

Most people in the UK don’t realize that our water supply is a finite resource, at least not until the latest hose ban comes into effect. Estimates suggest that by 2030 our demands will have outstripped supply by as much as 40%. That’s why initiatives such as rainwater harvesting, collecting the water that lands on our roofs and saving it for non-potable uses, is becoming ever more important.

In some parts of the world, they are taking rainwater harvesting to the extreme. Chinese designers have developed a huge rainwater harvesting tower to protect the Amazon rainforest from damaging fires during the dry season. Called the Rainforest Guardian it not only provides vital water for the surround vegetation but also acts as a research centre for scientists.

On a more domestic level, rainwater harvesting can help reduce your water bills by as much as 40% if you are using a meter. It can be used for tasks like watering the garden, flushing the toilet and washing clothes that represent a large part of our daily demand.

And Finally...

If you want to find a design that incorporates all three sustainable uses then visit California where they have used discarded shipping crates to make an eco-friendly building. The crates have been arranged on the eCorre Complex in Long Beach and it's used for solar, green gardening and rainwater harvesting to create one of the most environmentally friendly buildings in the world.