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It’s Alive! Living beneath a living roof.

One of the most unique features of our home is something we’ve come to take for granted — the living roof.realroof

It was grown for us out at N.A.T.S .Nurseries in Langley, who are representatives of LiveRoof.

It’s very green and ecologically responsible and etc. etc. of us to put in the living roof, but we originally just wanted it because it looks nice.

Because our roof is visible (due to the slope of the property) the folks in the main house and the neighbours are looking at it whenever they look at the laneway house. And because we have flat roof not just on the upper storey but also on the top of the garage and some of the lower storey, we just wanted something nice for them to look at.  The roof of the garage is right outside our kitchen window, and it’s much more pleasant to look at a garden than a heli-pad black slab.

Our roof is an extensive green roof, a carpet of sedums and other low-growing plants.  An extensive green roof would support larger plants, even trees.

But it turns out there are lots of other very good reasons to install a living roof of either kind.  According to the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities site, living roofs offer benefits to more people than the home owners.

For cities:

1. Cleaner water. Living roofs clean storm water.  Here in Vancouver we can have real downpours.  The water runs off hard surfaces like roads, sidewalks, and yes, roofs, and enters the storm sewer system.  All at once.  That can overwhelm the system.  But living roofs absorb and retain the water, delaying its entry into the storm sewer and easing the pressure on the system.  Plus the roofs filter the water, and through evaporation, lessen the of water they deliver to the system.

2. Cooler cities. You may have heard about the “urban heat island effect“.  This is a problem for big cities where the structures absorb heat during the day and retain it far longer into the evenings than soft, natural surfaces.  According to the EPA,

The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings.3 On a clear, calm night, however, the temperature difference can be as much as 22°F (12°C).3

The living roofs keep cooler during the day due to the evaporation that goes on, but they also cool off much faster than hard, black roofs once the sun is down.

3. Cleaner air. Plants clean the air of pollution and particulates.  So living roofs can reduce smog.

For individual home owners:

1. Energy efficiency. The living roof acts as an insulator during the winter, keeping the home warmer.  Plus in the summer, it keeps the home cooler because the plants provide an insulating layer PLUS the evaporation of water through the plants lowers the temperature.  You may have set a sprinkler on your roof during the super hot weather to cool it off — that works by evaporation and our roof does that all the time naturally.

2. Fire retardation.  If a building near by catches fire and the sparks land on our roof, they will just go out.  It would be like trying to light a lawn on fire.

3. Noise reduction. According to Green Roofs,

An extensive green roof can reduce sound from outside by 40 decibels, while an intensive one can reduce sound by 46-50 decibels

4. Increased durability.  The plants protect the membrane below them from the destructive rays of the sun. A living roof can last at least two times longer than a plain membrane roof. And that keeps membrane and sealant out of the landfills.

There’s some maintenance to be done on the roof — weeding!  We’ll also be putting on a little fertilizer.  Thanks to N.A.T.S. Nursery for their help.

Visit N.A.T.S. Nursery at their website for more information.`

We’re a house! With a living roof!

I went out of town for a few days, and came back to see a HUGE difference in the laneway house.

Inside, the drywall has been put up and mudded.

Looking south in the upper storey:

Looking due south

Looking due south

See the rolled steel cladding on the outside deck?

The north wall of the kitchen

The north wall of the kitchen

And although the outside still has not received the final siding, there have been many changes

Yesterday the living roof was installed.

Yesterday the living roof was installed.

Today you can see how far the hardscaping has come:

Rebar and framing ready for the concrete.

Rebar and framing ready for the concrete.

The power still has not been connected to the laneway.  All the electricity to run the dryers and de-humidifiers that ready the drywall for painting have to be run with extension cords plugged in to different circuits in the main house (so they don’t overload each circuit and trip the breaker).

The great push will ensure that the Vancouver Heritage Foundation‘s laneway tour will see our little house in good form.  Have you bought your tickets yet?  It’s a great way to see the most laneway houses in the least expense of time.

Remember, there’s still a lot to be done in a short amount of time (losing a day on Monday for Thanksgiving Day).  The interior has to be painted and the flooring and tiling completed, the kitchen cupboards must be installed and the exterior siding must be put on.  The lights have to be connected, too.  So everyone is putting in extra hours to make it all come together.

LWHTime10

 

The front door is open, but just give us a chance to straighten up the place inside.

We will live a well-insulated life in our laneway

The laneway house is now on an accelerated completion schedule.  Because we have to be ready for the Vancouver Heritage Foundation‘s Laneway House Tour, we will be working hard to present a nice looking, almost-finished house to the participants. And by “we” I mean our builders.

So it was good to meet with Laurel and Angelito from Novell this week to see what’s happened and talk about what will be happening.

The rain-screening is complete on the exterior and just needs the sign-off from the home warranty inspector before the Hardie Board goes on.

The interior has all been insulated — and well-insulated, too.  We have a combination of batten and spray foam.

Here's a combination of batten and closed-cell spray foam

Here’s a combination of batten and closed- and open-cell spray foam

Here is batten above and open-cell spray foam below.

Here is batten above and closed-cell spray foam below.

Upstairs you can see the south-facing wall and the ceiling/roof:

20131004UpstairsSouth

Here’s the gable over the stairs with spray foam.

20131004Gable

And here’s what’s going to keep us toasty in our shower:

20131004Shower

You can see the packages of tiling here — ready to be installed once the special water-resistant drywall is in place.

The spray foam is a combination of open-cell and closed-cell.

Monday we will meet with the landscaper.  There’s not a large area to be landscaped, but we want it to be extra nice, for ourselves of course, but also for the people in the Main House and for the neighbourhood.

Next week we’ll see huge changes:

  • drywall
  • hardscaping
  • by Friday – tilework to start / doors installed / green roof and deck tiles installed

After Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving is the second Monday in October) we’ll see even more changes:

  • flooring
  • cabinets and appliances
  • smart garage door
  • plumbing and electrical finish

It may be a little cool in the house for the tour, Fortis isn’t scheduled to come in until October 22 to hook up the natural gas for the heating system, and we probably won’t have the counters installed in the kitchen.  But for the most part we will have a completed house.

Look, up in the sky!

I was looking at a new weather app to check when the late-summer drizzle was going to stop and got a nasty shock.  A rain warning.  We live in Vancouver, a notoriously rainy city.  A warning that there will be heavy rain has to be taken seriously because we usually just pretend that it’s not happening. But as climate change happens (and happens to us, we can’t avoid it) we must expect more hard rains, more frequent, more severe.

it seems to me that we have chosen the perfect roof to handle this kind of weather.  The living roof will soak up the hard rains, holding the bulk of the spate so that it doesn’t overwhelm the water run-off system that can overtax the sewers.  The rolled steel roof will slide the water right onto the rain chains and along a pathway we’ll build for it so it gradually gets absorbed.

The rolled steel roof is being installed now — yes, in the pouring rain.

20130829_3Here’s the bit of roof right over our bedroom — that will provide us with lovely sound when we are sleeping beneath it in the rain.  You see the edging slipped over the under layer, and the steel panels lay over that.  Above that you see the window that will nestle between the kitchen counter and the upper cupboards.

Here’s what will be going on with the outside walls:

20130829_2That’s strapping holding down waterproof paper, with a solid plastic flashing at the bottom, and white flashing around the bedroom window.

Here’s what the finished roof looks like on the side gable — sharp!LWHTime8

More work has been done on the inside — the sprinkler system is in place.  We’ve decided on a security provider, so that’s one more thing off our list.

Looking forward to the next few weeks, there’s so much work that will be done in just a little while.

 

A peek inside the nursery

We are being delayed by an inspection that hasn’t been completed.  It’s complicated (as you may have guessed) but since inspectors are human and since they each have their own criteria as to what should be completed when, we have to get some more work done before the sheathing inspection is completed and signed off.

This is a disappointment, of course, we will be meeting with the nice folks from Novell on Friday to get everything straightened out.

But meanwhile, back at the ranch, er, farm:

realroofIt’s a baby living roof.  More to the point, it’s OUR living roof, growing up all big and strong out in Langley, waiting to be delivered to us and placed on our home in just a few weeks.

All together now, ‘Aaaaaahhhhhhhh’.

Just in passing, I was downtown the other day at a meeting and during a break looked out the office window to see this:

GeorgiaRoof

 

A live roof many storeys in the sky.

Ours will look nicer, of course, but it’s an idea of what we can expect.

 

Day 46

DH and I were getting — not anxious — but a little thoughtful.  When we saw Laurel and Ang three weeks ago, Ang told us that framing on the laneway house would begin the following week, that is two weeks ago.  Yet, although there was clearly action at the site, there was no framing.

So we talked about it and wondered about it and finally contacted Laurel to ask why.  It turned out that the city wanted them to install a clean out function for the plumbing and it had to be completed and inspected before they could proceed.  That was done before they met with us on Thursday evening for our regular meeting.  So all was well, and there would be framing beginning toute suite.

Things we have to think about:  electrical plan, where we will put the TV, plumbing features in the bathroom (is it still a bathroom if there’s no bathtub, just a shower?), the predominant colours in the live roof (our roof is being grown just for us).

I’ve been watching decorating shows for many years now (remember when Debbie Travis did The Painted House?) and I realize now that they have been leading me down the garden path.  You don’t think about the floor and walls first, then the appliances and the fixtures.  In a bathroom the fixtures have to come first — so the plumber can install the necessaries.  The windows and doors have to be ordered before the foundation is poured so they will be ready when the framing is finished.  The cabinets are not something you fit into a finished kitchen — you build the room around them.

Things we will have to think about soon: the built-in vacuum and the security system, the appliances. Also the lights we will be installing.

We will be driving out to Port Moody tomorrow to check out a back-lit mirror for the bathroom.

Knowing that the framing would begin today, I rushed over after work today to see the progress.  And I saw this:

Day49This part of the framing is setting the plates — the horizontal boards that the studs will be connected to — very accurately and securely on the top of the foundation. See how the plates are a different colour?  That means they are pressure treated to resist moisture.

It will be a little while until we see the shape of the home but everyone is quite confident that the project will proceed according to the schedule.

Find out more about the framework of a home here.

 

A visit to the Home Discovery Show

I had another chat with Ian and Steve at the Home Discovery Show .  I followed their chat with Melissa of The Thirties Grind, who coincidentally had a post last week about laneway homes that I left a comment on. The circle of life.

Ian and I talked about the garden plans for the laneway, what the City of Vancouver expects of us, and about the living roof we plan to install.

We are very lucky, when we told our builder, Novell, that we wanted to put in a living roof, they assured us that they are qualified installers of LiveRoof — complete system of plants plus growing medium to give you the roof you want.

Roof

 

It’s truly a garden on your roof, and it’s installed in such a way that it protects your roof from the very harmful rays of the sun, which eventually break down the membrane on regular roofs.

Ian was also kind enough to mention my Celt in a Twist podcast, and the fact that we’ve been nominated for an award on About.com.

About.com 2013 Readers' Choice Awards

Just a friendly reminder that you can vote here for the show every day until March 19 in the About.com Readers’ Choice Awards. And maybe for St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll want to hear the show itself.  You can find out more about it at Calcopyrite.com.

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