Green Roofs – Another Sustainable Option for Infiltration

You probably heard about or visited Chicago City Hall’s green roof, or had the opportunity to see other green roofs during your travels.  Green roofs play an important role in storm water management, especially in areas where the amount of permeable land needed for infiltration of run-off is limited or not an option, or when you’d like to infiltrate more run-off from your property. A typical 1000 square foot roof generates over 600 gallons of water with just 1 inch of rainfall, so infiltrating roof run-off is important.

A green roof consist of layers of plants, growing medium, and specialized roofing materials for drainage and protection, all installed upon a supportive roof deck.. Existing roofs can be retrofitted for a green roof, but new construction is a great opportunity to implement a green roof.  In addition, a green roof reduces cooling costs in summer and heat loss in winter, extends the life of a roof, provides habitat for wildlife, and is an extension of the landscape.  Like many other sustainable practices, the long term benefits and savings outweigh the upfront installation costs. There are different types of green roofs but all require a qualified installer, proper roofing support, specific plants and roofing materials, and maintenance. You can learn more about green roofs in the resource list below. 

Commercial and Community Green Roofs: We do have several local green roofs in the counties of Du Page, Kane, Kendall and Will counties. Some are visible from the ground or by accessing the roof themselves, but if neither is an option you can view the roofs by typing their address using Google Earth.

·        The Conservation Foundation’s McDonald Farm Milk House, Naperville – This green roof was made possible with donations from Geoff Roehll with Hitchcock Design Group, John Benardi with Sika Sarnafil Roofing, Kurt Horvath with Intrinsic Landscaping, The Kleinwachter Family

Installed in Fall 2014, Photo taken May 2015



·        Du Page Forest Preserve‘s Lyman Woods Interpretive Center, Downers Grove

·        Health and Science Center building at College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn

·        Lace Elementary School, Darien Hubble Middle School, Warrenville

·        Sebert Landscaping corporate office, Bartlett

·        Addison Public Library, Addison

·        Anthony Roofing, Aurora

·        DuPage County Administration Building,  Wheaton

Residential Green Roofs: There are several residential green roofs in our area.  A few owners have provided a short description, advice, favorite resources, plus photos for inspiration.  All the roofs highlighted below in DuPage County were installed in 2004, so I guess 2004 was the year for green roofs!

Naperville Green roof– This residential green roof was constructed in fall 2004 and planted in spring 2005. A structural engineer confirmed the current roof, built by homeowners, could support a green roof prior to installation. This roof is unique because it is planted on two steep roofs: a 500 square foot east facing roof over the garage and a 1000 square foot south facing roof over the main part of the house. It contains 100 species of plants, 90% of which are native prairie and savanna species, planted in only 4 inches of soil. It was watered during the first growing season only.  The plants are cut back in the spring once a year and the cuttings are swept off into the prairie landscape below to be burned in March. It requires occasionally weeding, especially of trees, and protection from geese which sometimes create holes in the planting material.

Naperville Residential Green Roof  Prairie plants  in Fall over multiple roof sections


Elmhurst Green Roof–  This green roof measures 250 square feet and is located on the top of the enclosed front porch. It has a combination of sedums and North American natives, not necessarily local native plants.  A structural engineer developed drawings for roof reinforcement which consisted of basic carpentry so the owners did the work themselves. This roof was design and installed by the Conservation Design Forum, Inc. during May and June of 2004. Maintenance includes early summer weeding to remove tree seedlings, and fall cleanup.

Elmhurst  Residential Green Roof over Porch – copyrighted

Downers Grove Green Roof – This 552 square foot green roof is located on the garage and has a combination of perennials and sedums.  It was planted in fall 2004. The roof structure is 2 x 12’s at 16" on center and was rebuilt to support a green roof when the homeowners added a second story addition.  Maintenance includes spring and fall cleanup.
Downers Grove Residential Green Roof over the garage – copyrighted

Oswego Green Roof– Dick Young will be remembered for his many accomplishments, including one of the first green roofs in our area, built in 1954. It mainly consisted of sod which he mowed, and Wild Plum trees. Thank you Dick Young for being a green roof pioneer in our area.

Dick Young’s green roof,  2006


Hope you are inspired to put a green roof on your property.  It’s one more thing we can do to protect our waterways and reduce run-off problems. If you know of other green roofs in any of the 4 counties (Du Page, Kane, Kendall, Will), please add them to the comments.We’d like to learn  about them. Thank you. Denise Sandoval Conservation@Home Assistant, email:


Chicago Green Roofs:

Dupage Storm water Grant :

Elmhurst Green Roof:

Citizen’s Guide to Preserve the Fox:

Green Roofs for Healthy City:

Dick Young Green Roof article:

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