Research has begun on a light weight alternative to extensive green roofs (the least intense form of a green roof) for when structural loads or costs might otherwise deter a client from choosing to pursue a green roof. It is being referred to as a ‘green cloak’ and uses fast growing vine species that attach to a trellis suspended above the roof. Laura Schumann, a graduate student at the University of Maryland completed her thesis on the cost benefits for temperature and stormwater using green cloaks. More complete information on temperature and stormwater reduction can be found on the University’s website.
While green cloaks will likely never provide near the benefits of an actual green roof system, a major potential is that they are probably a less expensive option when installing a green roof is just too cost prohibitive and a client is still looking for a way to save on energy costs. In addition to reducing cooling costs and slowing the runoff of stormwater from roofs, one of the most intriguing facets may be the potential for using vine and trellis systems on sloped roofs where it is currently challenging to implement traditional green roof systems. Another aspect is that vines have the potential to provide cover for vertical surfaces and may help provide even greater temperature benefits when combined to cloak walls as well.
The vine species researched in the study included 5 different species: cross vine (Bignonia capreolata), kudzu (Pueraria lobata), Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).
One drawback may be that green cloaks might not be as aesthetically pleasing to the masses as green roofs and could be a hard sell for more refined urban or retail areas. And it may also be difficult to provide full coverage for large roofs, however even partial coverage could provide huge cost savings in cooling costs for big box retailers or manufacturer’s with large warehouses where load bearing capacities for roofs are low and aesthetics are not as much of a concern. Either way, this is another potential option available for designers to help reduce energy costs, the urban heat island, and reduce stormwater runoff.