Rooftop spaces are the new addition to Kenyan homes. Besides the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and location, rooftop spaces are becoming the deciding factor when buying a home, especially those built on a small piece of land or that have no garden or backyard.
So, how do you make use of your rooftop space?
Many homeowners think that the rooftop is a small space to transform. But interior designers say you can turn it into a serene space to while away time, host friends or work at home.
Some homeowners are turning them into extra TV rooms for the children. Others are turning them into mancaves.
But what about having a rooftop garden?
James Maina, a retired teacher says he is still struggling to brighten his rooftop and is considering planting vegetables.
“I was teaching agriculture in high school. So with the assistance of my son, I want to put the knowledge to practice," he says.
He already grows vegetables, collards, spinach, and onions, for domestic consumption. The tending to the vegetables, he says, also serves as an exercise in old age.
Mr Maina plans to scale up his gardening to the rooftop. However, he is sceptical due to the lack of water.
“I have a very big space on my roof but I don’t know where to begin. I saw a neighbour’s flowers wither three weeks after he planted them on his roof,” he says.
Peter Mutisya, a landscaper says there are many ways to breathe new life into your rooftop space.
Go green. If you are yearning for some earthy touches, a rooftop is a great place for a green patch, especially for plants that need direct sunlight to thrive.
Grow your fresh veggies, and add a few hanging flower baskets or potted shrubs for extra greenery.
Michael Kimani, a rooftop garden tutor says rooftop gardens have been in existence for a long time now. For instance, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is known to have tiered gardens with lots of vegetation.
“A roof garden is essentially a man-made green space on the topmost level of residential and commercial structures, consisting of different plants. These verdant areas help improve a building’s aesthetics,” says Mr Kimani.
All plants, he says can do well including potted trees, shrubs, and flowering plants.
There are three types of rooftop gardens depending on their features and purpose.
Extensive green roof: This is a low-maintenance garden that has a thin, lightweight growing medium. It is characterised by its vegetation, which is often limited to sedums, mosses, herbs, small plants and flowers, desert grasses, and succulents.
“Because it has a growing medium depth of around 3 to 6 inches, an extensive green roof is easier to install and cost-efficient, and generally doesn’t require an irrigation system to survive. It is ideal for stormwater management for flat or low-sloped roofs and retrofits,” Mr Kimani says.
Intensive green roof: This is more of a rooftop garden or sky park than anything else. This roof garden design is characterised by deep soils that have a growing medium depth of more than six inches.
A variety of vegetation can be grown in an intensive roof garden, from small to large plants, shrubs, groundcovers, and even small trees.
“An intensive green roof offers a great potential for highly creative designs and biodiversity. It can support small home gardens, playgrounds, full-scale parks, and even vegetable gardens. But this rooftop garden type also requires intensive care, with regular professional maintenance and advanced irrigation systems,” he says.
Semi-intensive green roof: This boasts a mix of both intensive and extensive green roofs. It is characterised by a growing medium depth of around 6 to 12 inches to host a much richer ecology.
Greenery in this type of rooftop garden consists of small plants, grasses, herbs, small shrubs, and groundcovers that require occasional irrigation and moderate maintenance.
A semi-intensive green roof is able to retain more stormwater than an extensive green roof and, at the same time, provides the potential for a formal roof garden effect. Its design makes it ideal for long-term care facilities, daycare play spaces, and urban picnic areas.
Other ways of making that space on the roof cool include;
Adding some shade. It doesn’t matter the height of your rooftop, it’s still going to get hot. The direct sunlight is perfect for a pretty steamy condition and of course a great place for a few solar panels.
However, by adding a covered awning, a large umbrella, or a canopy stand you can enjoy the outside and beat the heat.
Get cozy. A rooftop is nothing more than a combination of steel, brick, and concrete, so you will need something to soften the edge.
Add a few outdoor rugs, a few washable canvas cushions, and some sort of lighting in the form of paper lanterns or candles. This will serve as a beautiful Valentine’s spot for you and your loved ones.
Get cooking. To food lovers, you may not have a backyard for barbecuing, but a rooftop is a worthy substitute. Add a grill for cookouts and an outdoor dining table for evening parties.
If your building fire code allows, you may even install a fire pit for those windy, chilly nights. With a little creativity, it’s easy to transform your rooftop into a year-round retreat.