I just returned from an incredible family trip to Iceland. We traveled the Ring Road and saw the most amazing sites such as; waterfalls, sheep grazing free, endless vistas, moss covered lava fields, lupine covered fields with majestic mountains beyond, geysers and geothermal activities I could never imagine. One item we saw during our drive was grass covered houses or Torfbær (turf house). Why would anyone put grass on their roof? Well, it was clear to me it was an easy way to create insulative value to their homes in such a brutal winter climate. In an area where it is difficult to get different building materials, it makes sense to use what is available to create a comfortable indoor environment. In addition, this method allows for a more consistent interior temperature during winter as well as summer months. This method is also referred to as “earth sheltering”. It creates a thermal mass to help maintain moderate temperatures within the structure. It is popular amongst environmentalists who are fans of passive solar energy techniques and sustainable architecture. The R-value discussed in “Warm me up” is hard to calculate for these green roofs because of moisture absorbed and depth of materials and since it is living it is constantly changing, but studies have been done showing values varying from R-17 to R-38 have been achieved.
Not only is it a great way to insulate your home, save energy and use materials indigenous to the area it makes for great photographs as well as a food source for the local sheep. If you have the time to get away I highly recommend Iceland and traveling the Ring Road!