Water Sensitive SA

Green roofs & walls

Green roofs fact sheet (PDF)

The green roofs fact sheet describes the benefits of green roofs, including the ability to reduce stormwater runoff, types of green roofs, construction systems for new builds and retrofits, and typical dead loads of green roof components.

Green roofs short videos – tips for installing your green roof

Green roofs - Adelaide Zoo, Sancutary Function Centre and Minchin House. Images: Water Sensitive SA

What is a green roof?

A green roof is a vegetated landscape system installed on a roof structure or building structure. Green roofs are made up of a series of layers; starting with a waterproofing layer, drainage layer, filter fabric layer, growing substrate layer and a vegetation layer. There are three main categories for green roofs: Extensive, intensive and elevated landscape/on structure.

Types of green roofs

Lightweight system with substrate depth of 150 mm or less, and typically non-trafficable access due to thin substrate and structural capacity.

This is the most common with a substrate more than 150mm and usually less than 550 mm. These roofs are trafficable and often include paving, insulation and have good stormwater management opportunities.

Elevated landscape/on structure
These landscapes have a substrate of 500 mm or greater and create a new ground plane or surface. This gives the greatest potential for insulation, stormwater management and biodiversity, similar to existing ground surface.

Benefits of green roofs
  • Stormwater management, improve runoff quality and reduce runoff
  • Thermal insulation improvement
  • Air quality improvement
  • Urban heat island effect reduction
  • Increased open space
  • Evapotranspiration increased by combination vegetation and soil
  • Urban wildlife habitat increase
  • Food production opportunities (urban agriculture)
  • Increased pollination of crops and other important plants
  • Maintain atmosphere composition (CO2/O2 balance)
  • Noise reduction
  • Visual amenity and urban design
  • Creating micro climates for buildings and urban canyons
Stormwater management
  • Green roofs absorb and retain water, thus can be an effective strategy for the management of urban stormwater.
  • Green roofs can delay the time to onset and peak flow and reduce the overall volume by the substrate/layers of the system. A study by University of Auckland (Voyde, Simcock, Fassman, Wells 2009) found 72% of cumulative rainfall volume was retained and 92% reduction of peak flow.
  • A study by University of South Australia (Razzaghmanesh 2012) showed that runoff water quality was suitable for irrigation and non-potable use. Also the study showed that an extensive roof was more efficient at removing nitrogen and phosphorus than an intensive (deep) roof.
Construction system

Structural consideration

All loads on the roof need to be considered in the structural capacity of the structure including the saturated weight of the green roof system and plants (dead load), as well as the usage, such as people and activities (live load).

Green roofs fact sheet (PDF)

Other resources



Acknowledgement of Country

Water Sensitive SA acknowledges Aboriginal people as the First Peoples and Nations of the lands and waters we live and work upon, and we pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge and respect the deep spiritual connection and the relationship that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have to Country.