Biophysical properties and thermal performance of an intensive green roof

C.Y. Jim, S.W. Tsang
Building and Environment, Volume 46, Issue 6, June 2011


Green roofs have been increasingly enlisted to alleviate urban environmental problems associated with urban heat island effect and stormwater quantity and quality. Most studies focus on extensive green roofs, with inadequate assessment of the complex intensive type, subtropical region, and thermal insulation effect. This study examines the physical properties, biological processes, and thermal insulation performance of an intensive green roof through four seasons. An experimental woodland installed on a Hong Kong building rooftop was equipped with environmental sensors to monitor microclimatic and soil parameters. The excellent thermal performance of the intensive green roof is verified. Even though our site has a 100 cm thick soil to support tree growth, we found that a thin soil layer of 10 cm is sufficient to reduce heat penetration into building. Seasonal weather variations notably control transpiration and associated cooling effect. The tree canopy reduces solar radiation reaching the soil surface, but the trapped air increases air temperature near the soil surface. The substrate operates an effective heat sink to dampen temperature fluctuations. In winter, the subtropical green roof triggers notable heat loss from the substrate into the ambient air, and draws heat upwards from warmer indoor air to increase energy consumption to warm indoor air. This finding deviates from temperate latitude studies. The results offer hints to optimize the design and thermal performance of intensive green roofs.

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