Green roofs last longer than conventional roofs, reduce energy costs with natural insulation, create peaceful retreats for people and animals, and absorb storm water, potentially lessening the need for complex and expensive drainage systems. On a wider scale, green roofs improve air quality and help reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect, a condition in which city and suburban developments absorb and trap heat. Anyone who has walked across a scalding parking lot on a hot, summer day has felt one effect of an Urban Heat Island.
The layers of a green roof must, like any roof, accommodate drainage and protect the building from the elements with a waterproof membrane. But they also must create a growing area and potentially provide support, irrigation and root protection barriers while staying as light as possible.