Thermal behavior of green roofs under Nordic winter conditions

Steven Collins, Kirsi Kuoppamäki, D. J. Kotze, Xiaoshu Lü

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


To understand how green roofs affect building energy performance under cold climatic conditions, a proper thermal analysis of the roof and its components is required. To address this, we measured the thermal conductivity of each layer of experimental green roofs, as well as equivalent thermal resistance of the complete green roof system during winter conditions in southern Finland. Three experimental green roof platforms (1 m × 2 m) with heated boxes and three identical bare roof platforms (without substrate, vegetation and other green roof layers) were equipped with thermocouples that continuously measured a vertical temperature profile through the roofs. A steady-state heat transfer analysis was performed to assess the functioning and relative thermal performance of the green roof systems. Layer analysis at various intensities of frost penetration showed that the thermal conductivity of each layer decreased when penetrated by frost. In particular, thermal conductivity of the substrate and vegetation layers decreased from 0.41 Wm−1K−1 and 0.34 Wm−1K−1 prior to freezing, to 0.12 Wm−1K−1 and 0.10 Wm−1K−1 after freezing, respectively. This phenomenon is explained by a reduction in bridge-water connectivity during freezing and a volumetric water content that was below the critical threshold value. Overall, a frost depth that extended through the complete green roof yielded the greatest equivalent thermal resistance. During times of snow cover, snow acted as an insulator and reduced the relative energy saving benefits achieved by green roofs. These results provide information for designing the substrate and vegetation layers of green roofs for optimal insulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-214
Number of pages9
JournalBuilding and Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Energy saving
  • Green roof
  • Heat flux
  • Thermal conductivity
  • Winter conditions

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