Sustainable Rooftop Decks & Gardens in Cities.

Why More Cities Are Interested in Building Sustainable Rooftop Decks & Gardens

As the populations grows in urban areas, there has been more talk and effort into building sustainable rooftop decks and attractive gardens on top of city structures.

There are many reasons why this building trend is becoming incredibly popular in urban highly populated cities all over the world today.

These building projects help to conserve energy by shading the building naturally, can improve city storm water management efforts and will otherwise counteract the many negative effects of urban development in cities all around the globe.

The History of Using Rooftop Gardens & Top-Level Building Platforms

Many people are surprised to learn that these innovative new rooftop decks are really nothing new at all. For centuries, man has made use of the top of their dwelling structures to expand their living space and for adding beautiful aesthetics to their ancient cities by way of rooftop gardens.

Perhaps the most well-known example, King Nebuchadnezzar II built his beloved wife the spectacular Hanging Gardens of Babylon back in 500 B.C. in what is now known as Iraq to remind his wife of her missed homeland terrain. This gorgeous rooftop garden draped with lush plant life and exotic flora is now considered one of the seven wonders of the civilized world.

Philly Rooftop Garden Deck

Top Benefits of Building Sustainable Rooftop Gardens & Decks Today

Even though ancient civilizations have routinely built rooftop platforms to provide extra dwelling and gardening space, this process is considered cutting-edge in urban building and construction circles today.

There are some impressive studies that indicate many practical benefits of building sustainable rooftop decks and gardens over top of urban apartment complexes, office buildings and other city structures.


Some of the top benefits of building eco-friendly rooftop decks and/or gardens include:

  • Slows Storm Water Runoff for Better Storm Water Management
  • Naturally Shades & Protects Hot City Rooftops
  • Can Lower Overall Building Energy Costs
  • Adds Substantial Beauty & Improves Urban Building Aesthetics
  • Promotes Relaxation & Socialization in City Neighborhoods
  • Extends Living & Entertainment Spaces Upwards
  • Improves Water & Air Quality
  • Has Positive Environmental Impact – Provides Food & Shelter for Nearby Birds & Other Wildlife
  • Can Be Used to Grow Food, Herbs or Flowers and Other Garden Bounties
  • Can Reduce Noise from Urban Streets
  • Helps Sequester Carbon, Reduces Pollution While Effectively Increasing Biodiversity in Urban Settings
  • Aids in Mitigating Commonplace Urban Heat Island Effect
  • Extends Lifetime of Roofing Materials & Structures
  • Provides Many Health & Well-Being Benefits
  • Can Raise Property Building Values

How City Property Owners Can Build an Earth-Friendly Rooftop Deck

Many city property owners become interested in installing an earth-friendly rooftop deck and/or rooftop garden after they read about them or experience seeing these top-level decks up close and personal. While these enticing benefits tend to encourage the desire for these building projects, actually performing the work involved can be dangerous for inexperienced individuals to do on their own.

If a property owner living in the city wants to research how to build these rooftop spaces, they should figure in needing specially crafted scaffolding and winch systems to enable safer work platforms for construction crews that need to work at higher levels to complete this type of job.

Advantages of Hiring a Professional Rooftop Deck/Garden Contractor

There are many terrific advantages of hiring a professional rooftop deck and/or rooftop garden construction company experienced in these sorts of novel green building improvement projects within an urban area. Aside from the obvious fact that working at these heights is dangerous, the prospective peril potential grows even higher when heavy construction tools and supplies are involved.

A professional construction company that specializes in creating these gorgeous and practical rooftop environments will have the required training, knowledge and hands-on skill background to get the work completed in a safe and timely manner. There are countless city building codes and regulations that must be followed to a T, and professional rooftop decking contractors are very familiar with this part of the building process.

Other reasons to go with a seasoned rooftop deck/garden expert includes the shorter downtime needed, as these contractors will have a bevy of workers and the required equipment to properly and swiftly get the job done right the first time. This type of construction project requires a specialized knowledge and convenient availability of the necessary construction and safety gear, tools, equipment and other supplies.

Why Now is an Excellent Time to Consider Building a Rooftop Retreat

Most outside construction is done when the weather is warm and dry. However, the high demand for experienced and affordable building contractors able to do this form of work makes it imperative to consult with a local rooftop deck builder soon. These construction specialists are fast filling in their upcoming summer job schedules right now.

Choosing a Rooftop Deck/Garden Design, Materials & Bonus Amenities

There are so many wonderful options in design styles, material choices and bonus added amenities to choose from, and consumers should remember that they will need an accessible access point to reach their new rooftop oasis. It may be possible to use a top-floor closet space to access a stairway leading to the roof, or consumers can opt for an outside staircase to limit taking space away from the building’s interior living spaces.

Some other important consumer choices include the type of decking material, the proper leveling platform, railing or fencing options and style of staircase or rooftop ladder that will meet current city safety and fire codes.

Every urban property owner should seriously consider building upwards. From a purely builder prospective, these innovative green rooftop decks are a frugal way to make good use of otherwise wasted living and entertaining square footage space. Sustainable rooftop decks and lovely gardens offer many useful benefits.

Happy 2019, time for that rooftop deck you wanted

View of finished roof deck from stairway
spiral stair entry

With the spring approaching quickly, now is the time to start thinking about getting that rooftop deck built.

The time it takes to plan, get engineered drawings made up and submit all paperwork needed to get a building permit for a deck takes about 2 months realistically.

Most of the work we do in summer is actually planned this time of year.

Give me a call and I will help you get on track with your dream deck!

Roof Decks: Why Spend the Money?

Cost versus benefit is one question clients weigh in their minds.

Outdoor living space is limited in cities like Philadelphia, so one of the only options is to go up by having a deck built on the roof. Cost varies for different reasons; the materials used to build the deck range in cost from $4 to $12 per square foot (the more expensive being the exotic hardwoods).

Another big factor in cost is the railing or guard rail. Anything goes for railings as long as it meets code requirements. We build traditional vertical spindle or picket type railings as well as using horizontal stainless steel cables or glass panels for the railing infill. The only problem we have found is that the glass is difficult to keep clean on the outside of the railing.

In considering having a deck built, access to the deck is something that needs careful planning. If you have a closet or a small bedroom on the top floor, we have used that space in the past to create a stairway to the roof and build a pilot house on the roof to gain access. Another way is to convert a hall window to a door and then have steps built on the outside of the building to get up on deck. This seems to be the most popular way because it does not eat up living space inside your home. Some homes have a balcony or a deck already built on the upper level of the home that can be used as a foundation for a steel spiral staircase leading up to deck above.

The sky is the limit when it comes to roof deck design. You just need to be creative in the planning stage to make sure that in the end you get a functional and beautiful living space that adds value and appeal to your home.

Cumming Construction LLC is the Philadelphia area’s premier rooftop deck design and build firm, creating beautiful outdoor living spaces. We visit your site to review and provide a plan and proposal for your rooftop deck built with Pau Lope, Ipe, Exotic Brazilian Wood, Western Red Cedar, Timbertech, Trex and MoistureShield Composite Decking. Multi-level flooring designs, arbors, pergolas, rails in aluminum by Deckorators, glass, or wood are available.

We also feature stainless steel horizontal cable railing infill, outdoor kitchens and bars for entertaining, horizontal or square style lattice panels, benches, cocktail tables, spas and lighting. We handle city permits and construction is built by our staff.

Roof Decks: Another Story for the City

Groundhogs aside, the coming of spring is marked for us by people calling for new roof decks.

Roof decks are possibly the easiest, least expensive, and most rewarding way that urban dwellers can increase their private living space without the trauma of building a large addition or the aggravation of relocating.

The finished deck with Philadelphia in the background.One of my favorite projects was a roof deck we did in the Fitler Square neighborhood of Philadelphia. The client is a designer for an architecture firm, and he had been creating plans and drawings for his home’s pièce de résistance for several years before we embarked on the project. Its features include a galvanized steel spiral staircase, a corrugated tin roof, granite countertop, working sink and extendable body sprayer to cool off, a barbecue pit with exhaust hood, hard-wired lights, and electrical outlets throughout. We even installed a galvanized steel bucket on a pulley system to easily raise ice, food, and beverages from the first-floor kitchen.

We’ve employed the same structural approach on a half-dozen or so roof decks since then. We remove the existing tar and roofing on the shared “party” masonry walls on either side of house, upon which we form and pour new concrete caps. These footings support the pressure-treated 2×10 joists for the deck. This approach allows the deck to span from masonry wall to masonry wall, with absolutely nothing touching or potentially harming the existing roof below. Also, the weight limit upon the deck is virtually limitless; the deck is framed exactly as the floors within the house.

Finished multi-level roof deck.Except in very rare occasions, the gradual slope of city roofs can result in a cool design element. Rather than a single level deck starting a foot or so off the roof on one end, and ending three or four feet in the air on the other, we build bi-level decks. In the end, the two levels result in a more attractive and sophisticated look than just a single deck anyway.

I don’t think we’ve used pressure-treated wood as decking on an unenclosed space since I’ve been with the company. The new composite decking products on the market are simply too affordable, environmentally friendly, and maintenance-free to consider any other option. And there are new, more attractive lines coming out every day; while we have used the popular Trex and ChoiceDek carried at the large home stores, we like the natural appearance and color choices of brands such as MoistureShield, TimberTech, and others. These decks are created from up to 90% pre-and-post-consumer recycled material and require no sealing, staining, or painting and will not rot or warp from water or sunlight. MoistureShield Decking, for example, contains an average of 289 plastic grocery sacks or 92 plastic water jugs per 12-foot board.

Nothing sings spring to me like the sound of a cool breeze over city rooftops, children laughing in playgrounds below, and the buzz of a circular saw that only we can hear. Seems like most folks enjoy their new rooftop deck more than they originally thought they would

Learn more about our deck and patio services and view more of our portfolio.