EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Rethinking green roofs- natural and recycled materials improve their carbon footprint

Thomas Nehls1, Laura Tams1, and Cristina Sousa Coutinho Calheiros2
Thomas Nehls et al.
  • 1Technische Universität Berlin, Dept. of Ecology, Dept. of Ecology, Chair for Ecohydrology and Landcape Evaluation, Berlin, Germany
  • 2Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR/CIMAR), University of Porto, Novo Edifício do Terminal de Cruzeiros do Porto de Leix˜oes, Avenida General Norton de Matos, S/N, 4450-208, Matosinhos, Portugal

Green roofs are promoted to deliver climate regulation and urban heat island mitigation and many more. Ecosystem services of green roofs are discussed generally positively, but their footprint from production and demolition processes have not been fully addressed. In this study, a life cycle analysis (LCA) was conducted to assess the possibility of creating of a carbon-neutral green roof and to evaluate and compare the global warming potential (GWP) of two green roofs: 1) a conventional green roof (GR-c) with expanded clay, pumice, and compost in the substrate and a polypropylene drainage, and 2) an eco-friendly green roof (GR-a) with recycled bricks and compost in the substrate and a cork drainage. The LCA refers to a functional unit (FU) of a 218 m2 green roof (substrate depth of 9 cm; lifespan of 40 years). The results showed that the use of a brick substrate can reduce the GWP to 3139 kg of CO2 eq/FU (- 50%) and the use of cork drainage to 441 kg of CO2 eq/FU (- 69%). Apart from production, demolition is a key process  to be improved in future, accounting for 32% (GR-c) and 55% (GR-a) of the GWP. Once produced, a green roof can take up 783 gCO2/(m2⋅a) because of plant uptake. To become CO2-neutral, a GR-c and GR-a would have to last 88 and 53 years, respectively. Furthermore, the GWP was influenced by green roof maintenance and plant CO2 uptake. We conclude that recycled bricks and cork are promising green roof materials.

How to cite: Nehls, T., Tams, L., and Calheiros, C. S. C.: Rethinking green roofs- natural and recycled materials improve their carbon footprint, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-9316,, 2023.