Last fall, I was in a client’s second-floor office hashing out the details of an ongoing landscaping project when I noticed a door to the outside. I asked where it led. “Nowhere, really,” my client said. After checking for myself, I understood what she meant. The door opened onto an unattractive deck that — despite a great view of Lake Ontario — was clearly unused. An EPDM membrane covered the floor, and I could imagine how hot that black surface got in the summertime.

I suggested adding a roof garden. Though my client knew about the environmental benefits of green roofs, she was surprised to learn about the lightweight planting system my company had recently been trained to install. While these vegetative panels from Green Living Technologies (800/631-8001, agreenroof.com) are primarily used for commercial...

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