You may have to water these roofs
Roofs of sod and living plants are becoming more popular, popping up in the Hamptons, Missouri, Poland and elsewhere.
Twenty-three years ago, two architects in the Hamptons sketched out a plan for their pool house.
It would be two stories, in the style of the traditional Kampong stilt houses they had seen in Malaysia — common in U.S. coastal areas, too, but apparently not in the Hamptons. It would be a peaceful retreat, designed for a small space.
In 2011, the pool house was finally completed and topped off with a sod roof, like those you see in old movies about the English countryside. "We would keep reviewing our original design and decided that it stood the test of time," Phil Smith, who built the pool house with his partner, Doug Thompson, said to The Wall Street Journal.
To learn how to design and build the sod roof, Smith and Thompson researched traditional Norwegian bungalows.
In Missouri, Brian Liloia built an entire house of sand, clay and straw, drawing upon the traditional cob building practice. He has just published a book about his experience, "The Year of Mud," the same title as his blog.
"Cob allows its owner-builder endless freedom in way of design, and you can learn cobbing basics in a day," he wrote. "It is indeed labor-intensive, but it becomes a labor of love, and what better way to build a home then by getting your hands and feet dirty in the mud, without the need for loud power tools and heavy machinery?"
Post continues belowLiving roofs and roofs made of sod have become more popular in recent years, though they never entirely faded from view. Back in 1972, Mother Earth News provided detailed instructions for building a sod roof.
Sod roofs are becoming more popular in Europe, and Polish architect Robert Konieczny used sod to create the roof of a much larger contemporary-style house. Yes, he's the architect of the zombie-proof house.
Steven Peck, president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, an industry association for the United States and Canada, said there are many benefits to a sod roof, or other green roofs.
"Sod roofs [and other green roofs] retain heat in the winter and cool a house in the summer, saving about 25% per year in climate-energy costs," he said to Dwell magazine.
If you're tempted to try this at home, be sure to do your research first.
"This is not a do-it-yourself technology," Peck said. "There are serious structural implications and a lot of things that need to be considered before grass roofing.”
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.