Improving green roofs with new technology

Posted on Thursday, August 31st, 2017

Written by Rebecca Moore

Bike shelter with a green roof
This green roof at the University of Guelph is entirely made in Ontario, from the substrate blocks to the plants grown at the Smart Green Technologies Inc. greenhouse in Prince Edward County

Green roofs –roofs partially or completely covered by plants – are becoming more popular in urban landscapes because they help manage storm water and reduce heating and cooling costs while making cities greener – literally.  A former Guelph researcher is combining research with engineering savvy to make these structures more accessible, efficient and affordable. 

Greg Yuristy, former member of the University of Guelph Green Roof Research team, has brought a lighter, easier-to-install green roof to market with his company Smart Green Technologies Inc. (SGT). Over the past year, it’s become a one-stop-shop for green roofs, poised to help meet the increasing demand for renewable and energy-saving technologies.

 The Guelph connection goes deep. The company uses hydroponic techniques developed by Guelph Green Roof Research Program leader Prof. Youbin Zheng to grow its plants. With conventional technology, plants for green roofs are grown on outdoor mats. This process is lengthy:  It can take up to one year, and produces mats so heavy that one-meter square segments often have to be carried by four workers, making installation cumbersome and difficult. 

But the unique hydroponic technique developed by the Guelph research team means plants can reach maturity within four to five weeks and they’re much lighter: The resulting plant mats weight only half-a-pound per square meter segment, making installation significantly easier than conventional mats. 

The company also designed lighter and easier-to-install substrate blocks that support the plant mats. These patented blocks are easily installed as a series of hard, square segments that eventually turn to soil once they receive enough moisture.  

And it’s all made in Ontario, from the substrate blocks to the plants grown at the company’s greenhouse in Prince Edward County. Last year SGT hired 13 people to meet the demand for its green roofs and the company’s future continues to look rosy– or, better yet, green.

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