When the rooftops come to life

When typhoon Ondoy dumped a month’s worth of rainwater in the country’s capital, it triggered widespread flooding that submerged as high as two-story structures.

Environmentalists say the capital may have been spared if less of its surface area had been covered with concrete. The soil and plants would have helped absorb the rainwater.

But poor planning and inefficient building designs made an Eden in the heart of Manila unlikely. That is until the “green roof” came to the country.

Watch a rusty roof come to life with lush vegetation. Turn a barren rooftop into a botanical wonder. Recycle rainwater for a sky garden. In a “green roof,” the traditional tile and galvanized iron roofing are no more. Instead, layers of rocks, soil and plants provide a living, breathing cover for buildings and homes.

The soil mixture and vegetation are integrated into the roof, turning the structure’s crown into a giant plant pot.

“The green roofs act like sponges. The vegetation and soil retain part of the rainwater so that the run-off will be less,” engineer John Leslie Regio from the University of the Philippines explained.

Regio said the only difference with green roof structures is the fortified frame carrying the weight of the soil, plants and rainwater.

Aside from flood-control, green roofs insulate buildings and regulate city temperatures by not trapping heat, absorbing carbon-dioxide and releasing oxygen. They provide habitat and rest spots for migratory birds and insects.

Just this June, Quezon City passed an ordinance granting tax exemptions to green roofed homes, and mandated new buildings to dedicate 30 percent of their rooftop to natural landscape.

Though still in its infancy, the omens look good for a green roof revolution in the country. Much of Manila’s surface area is covered in concrete, but no one said rooftops can’t come to life.
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