Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 339–348 | Cite as

Green roofs are not created equal: the hydrologic and thermal performance of six different extensive green roofs and reflective and non-reflective roofs in a sub-tropical climate

  • Mark T. SimmonsEmail author
  • Brian Gardiner
  • Steve Windhager
  • Jeannine Tinsley


Green roofs have the potential to retain stormwater on the roof surface and lower the thermal loading on buildings. Because of this, the greatest environmental benefits from green roofs might be achieved in subtropical climates characterized by high temperatures and intense rain events. There is, however, little research to support this. In a replicated study in Texas, we compared the performance of six different extensive green roof designs vegetated with native species, to non-reflective (black) roofs, and reflective (white) roofs. Preliminary hydrologic and thermal profile data indicated not only differences between green and non-vegetated roofs, but also among green roof designs. Maximum green roof temperatures were cooler than conventional roofs by 38°C at the roof membrane and 18°C inside air temperature, with little variation among green roofs. Maximum run-off retention was 88% and 44% for medium and large rain events but some green roof types showed very limited retention characteristics. These data demonstrate indicate that: 1. Green roofs can greatly affect the roof temperature profile—cooling surface layers and internal space on warm days. 2. Green roofs can retain significant amounts of rainfall, this is dependent on the size of the rain event and design and can fail if not designed correctly. We suggest that as green roofs vary so much in their design and performance, they must be designed according to specific goals rather than relying on assumed intrinsic attributes.


Green roofs Subtropical climate Native plants Temperature Storm water 



The authors wish to thank City of Austin, Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, Austin Energy, RCI (Institute of Roofing, Waterproofing, and Building Envelope Professionals) Foundation, and TBG Partners for sponsoring this project. We also wish to thank Ken Ollinger RRC, CCCA who constructed the steel test assembly structures, roofing contractors who provided material and thousands of hours in labor, including: Dean Contracting, D. R. Kidd Roofing, Empire Roofing, Fifth Wall Roofing, L. S. Decker, Port Enterprises and Texas Roofing.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark T. Simmons
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brian Gardiner
    • 2
  • Steve Windhager
    • 1
  • Jeannine Tinsley
    • 1
  1. 1.Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower CenterUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Austech Roof Consultants Inc.AustinUSA

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