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The Living Roof
BRIT’s living roof is a one of a kind example in green roof technology. More than just a roof with plants adapted to hot environments, BRIT’s living roof recreates an existing Texas habitat. Click here to view a live video feed of the living roof.
The urban environment is an ecosystem in itself. With this living roof, BRIT is bringing a functional, native Texas ecosystem back into the built environment. Rather than just looking for plants that can survive in hot environments, BRIT asked the question, “What are the environmental parameters of a roof and what are its analog and native environs?”
Designed to mimic a geology formation known as the Goodland/Walnut Barrens, BRIT’s roof represents possibly the largest Texas barrens habitat of its type and is one of the only living roofs in Texas modeled after a true native ecosystem. Prairie barrens ecosystems are characterized by extremely shallow, limestone soils and low water throughout most of the year, perfect conditions for a roof in Fort Worth.
Read more about this type of prairie here.
Most importantly, our living roof creates a useable ecosystem in space that would otherwise go unused by the biological community. When it’s hot, the living roof also maintains a lower daytime temperature than the non-living roof, reducing heat island effect and insulating the inside of the building. During the winter, the roof insulates the building from the cold. The rainfall collection system from the living roof allows for water to be reused for irrigation on the campus and helps to mitigate storm water surges during rain events.
Design and Construction
BRIT researchers, along with associates at Texas Christian University, began work on the project in 2007. As the compositions of these ecosystems were described, planting ideas were drawn up for the living roof, as well as design specifications for the planting medium. Similar to the prairie soil, the characteristics of the soil to be used on the roof needed to be defined and matched to topsoil with specific microbes and seed bank. A matching topsoil was found and transplanted to the roof from Little Bear Aggregate site in Cresson, TX.
BRIT’s roof sits at a 9.5 degree angle to the south, mostly to facilitate viewing from ground-level but also to promote drainage. Biodegradable planting trays were used to prevent erosion during establishment and allowed for a modular design and easy installment. Each 2’ x 2’ coconut fiber tray was planted with six native Texas species (from a list of 38 total test species) within just 3 inches of mixed native and engineered soil with a limestone gravel mulch layer on top. The trays were started on the ground in late July 2010, tended in a sheltered spot under the tree canopy on the east side of the parking lot, and delivered onto the roof in November 2010 using a conveyor belt.