Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Grass Roofs of Norway

Norwegians have their own way of going green, and quite literally. For hundreds of years houses in Norway have been covered with turf. And they come in different varieties. Some are bright green and almost velvety. Others are golden and look like they’re growing wheat or oats. A number of turf roofs have flowers mixed in with the grass, and a few have small trees.

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The advantages of turf roofs (also called sod roofs) are many. They are very heavy, so they help to stabilize the house; they provide good insulation; and they are long-lasting. 

Turf roofs in Norway are a tradition and you will see them everywhere. Roofs in Scandinavia have probably been covered with birch bark and sod since prehistory. During the Viking and Middle Ages most houses had sod roofs. In rural areas sod roofs were almost universal until the beginning of the 18th century. Tile roofs, which appeared much earlier in towns and on rural manors, gradually superseded sod roofs except in remote inland areas during the 19th century. Corrugated iron and other industrial materials also became a threat to ancient traditions. But just before extinction, the national romantics proclaimed a revival of vernacular traditions, including sod roofs. A new market was opened by the demand for mountain lodges and holiday homes. At the same time, open air museums and the preservation movement created a reservation for ancient building traditions. From these reservations, sod roofs have begun to reappear as an alternative to modern materials.

Every year, since 2000, an award is also given to the best green roof project in Scandinavia by the board of the Scandinavian Green Roof Association.

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33 comments:

  1. Hehe, really funny roofs. Roots in ceilings must by funny too ;p

    PANATTONI

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  2. they can make competition with it..hehe.nice!

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  3. ... fantastic grass roof's of beautiful Norway.... awesome and "green" !!

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  4. Very ironic if you notice that all the houses have been built using huge quantities of Wood. There's no way that the grass in the roofs will compensate for all those trees that have been cut in order to build the houses. If Norwegians want to go green they should forget the grass roofs and use bricks to build their houses instead.

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    1. They didn't use bricks because of the cold winters and bricks in efficient insulation properties ya moron

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    2. You could consider too the amount of energy that is needed to create the bricks in the first place.

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  5. Wood is a renewable resource. Whats wrong with wood houses?

    I think the majority of these roofs probably are for thermal insulation, not the latest instance of just 'going green'.

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  6. "...use bricks to build their houses instead."
    Making bricks can use a lot of energy. Not necessarily a very green material, actually.

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  7. To make bricks - much more wood or coal must be burned. Wooden houses can be burned bits-by-bits for heating after they are not fit for living any more. Even braking stones from mountains takes much more energy to brake and transport, in Norway they have large forrests on mountains, even beyound arctic cricle. All trees fit for building good small houses!

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  8. There is no better roof on the planet than the Living Roof.

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  9. you can re grow a forrest time and time again, energy spent on bricks is a dead end

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  10. the first photo is photoshopped

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    1. No, actually, I've seen that house many times, it's just a bad photo. The house is located besides a main road. It's very old, so trees have started to grow on the roof.

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  11. Sod roofs in Scandinavia (not just in Norway)are found everywhere...even on Bornholm Island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. Birch bark is the key to their success as it is the waterproof under layment that doesn't rot out. I've un-earthed 19th century shoes in Sweden where the built up heals were layers of birch bark with a heavy leather piece on the bottom. After 150 years in damp soil the bark was still in good order whilst the leather bottom had rotted away. As to building with wood in Norway, Finland and Sweden...what else would you propose a farmer build with? Log and boards were the perfect renewable resource...just like black berries are fresh every spring.

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  12. "Very ironic if you notice that all the houses have been built using huge quantities of Wood."

    Considering that the majority of those houses and barns (I guess we could call them buildings) appear to be older, it is understandable that they are made of wood.

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  13. http://www.islenskibaerinn.com/

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  14. The first photo is not photoshopped. It is a house close to the Hemsedal ski lifts, in the eastern part of Norway. I know the last guy that lived in the house, he works as a mountain guide. Sadly, the roots broke through the roof last season, and the house is now practically unlivable.

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  15. all you tree-huggers can take a hike. These buildings were built before we had a name for the ozon

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  16. Pretty sure "going green" has literally nothing to do with it. Read the first paragraph of the entire page. "For hundreds of years houses in Norway have been covered with turf." It's traditional, not environmental. And using wood to make trees is actually green, seeing as trees grow back. People disappoint me.

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  17. wow, wood to make houses* sorry.

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  18. There are a lot of things we need to consider in order to make this process 100% right (I made a class out of this :p plus, my dad's an agronomist.
    It depends A LOT on the weather, and you need to have a very good water proof sealing, plus, you gotta know how to make a perfect organization of the seeds and make sure of the trespassing of the plants.. that's why it kind of depresses me in México sadly, it's not a very common thing, but I'm glad this is happening in the european countries, it might happen in here too someday :)

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  19. Dr. Olaf VendersApril 6, 2012 at 8:56 PM

    Wood AND brick are hugely destructive materials for making houses - the only ecological way to make a house is using blocks made of cheese (provided the cow doesnt mind its milk being employed for this purpose - a signed release is necessary legally). In northern climes this is feasible as there are limited mouse populations and the the smell is minimal except in summer months. The trick is to use a firm cheese, like cheddar, not a soft one like gruyere.
    I am one of 6 surviving octuplets born in a cheese block house (CBH) and it was truly a time of joy for all of us.

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    1. bah ha ha ha! Good one!

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    2. i'm still laughing!!!

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  20. Muito interessante e inteligente!

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  21. I am writing a thesis paper on vernacular architecture for my senior project and was wondering if anyone knew who to ask if I wanted to use one of these pictures in my paper because it has the potential to be published

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  22. These are AWESOME! I wish we had quirky and eco friendly kinds of traditions like this in the uk. Soooo want to go and visit Norway...

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  23. btw: photo one is from hemsedal in norway

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  24. OK
    Sod roofs, turve roofs, green roofs, mossy coverings--these are all traditional methods of providing water-proof, thermal roofs.

    In Wales--and also across the Irish Sea--it was common to use slate, thatch or stone and to work in moss that would in time take over. The Welsh Roofing Moss, as it came to be called, would grow and fill in around voids, building up thick layers which in lower levels became peaty, dry and waterproof. This actually greatly extended the life of the roof, contrary to what the "moss removal" industry would have us all believe (they want us to pay them to remove it, after all.

    Turve houses, roofs and coverings all have a long life, as well, depending upon construction and ongoing maintenance.

    Nothing lasts forever, but the "traditional" roofing methods often have great durability compared with asphalt shingle roofs, EPDM membranes, etc.

    Even in the Mediterranean, it was common to build up flat roofs with beams, then branches and twigs, layer it flat with oiled clay and maybe plaster or stone on top of that. Sometimes these roofs also ended up as heath-topped or even acted as water cisterns.

    Maybe one of the best reasons for a green roof system of some type is that it just looks so cool. (The Old Wizard of Oz movie shows the tin-man's cottage with and beautiful moss roof growing over thatch or metal and you should check this out, too.)

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