Flat roof in the Algarve

Flat roofs – tragedy or triumph in the Algarve?

Flat roofs are ugly; they’re boring and, most importantly, they’re just not functional!”

It’s what the average person thinks, right? Especially if you’ve spent most of your life in colder climes where you’ve likely had your fill of stories of flat roofs failing to drain water and causing damage. However, though your life experience may tell you otherwise, flat roofs are actually the best way to go under certain conditions, and we’re here to tell you why.

But first, we have a (significant!) correction to make:

Flat roofs aren’t really flat!

Or at least they shouldn’t be – they should always be at a slight angle to drain water, even if it doesn’t rain that often in the Algarve. Leading us onto the question:

Why are flat roofs so common in the Algarve?

It may not be an obvious connection at first, the flat roofs you see scattered across the Algarve are actually a trace of the Moorish occupation of the area between the 8th and 13th centuries. It may have been some time ago, but the Moors certainly made their mark, from the Hand of Fatima door knockers to intricate chimneys, traces of their presence are simply a part of everyday life here, so it’s not actually that surprising that this architectural trend lived on too. And it makes sense when you think about it – picture a Medina in Morocco or even little residential houses dating all the way back to Ancient Egypt. They all have their flat roof in common, bringing some surprising benefits…

The benefits of flat roofs

Did you know that flat roofs are actually better at insulating against the heat?

And that this, in turn, makes them more efficient?

There had to be a sustainability angle in here somewhere, didn’t there, and we’re pleased to say it’s all due to the insulation, with the membrane systems typically used on flat roofs simply being more efficient than those used on gables.

Next (though we didn’t need any other reasons to fall in love with flat roofs):

The endless ways you can use the space on a flat roof. Think about it – from breezy night-time sleeping quarters to a sun-bathed dining area, a flat roof can be an extension to your house or take on a multitude of other purposes, like hosting some well-placed solar panels, or even a full-blown garden.

Solar panels on roof in the Algarve

Make your flat roof even better by turning it into a green roof

And while we’re on the subject, how about making it green?

From creating a gorgeous garden on your roof to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing your insulation even further, green roofs have countless benefits.

But green roofs often lead to a niggling question…

Do sustainable green roofs require a lot of maintenance?

The answer is simple: not if you plan them well! Green roofs can be based on three types of system:

  • Extensive systems are made up of low maintenance, self-sustaining vegetation that’ll do well under the heat of the Algarve sun.
  • Semi-extensive systems are a mix of extensive and intensive plants, so some sections may need more watering while others thrive on their own.
  • Intensive systems are made up of plants that require frequent maintenance, so you’ll need easy access to them – think something like a flower or even a herb garden on your roof!

Though it’ll depend on the amount of work you want to put into your roof, one thing we recommend is using local vegetation – truly building “with and within nature” from the foundations right to your very rooftop!

Jump on the 2022 plant-friendly bandwagon

One of the big architecture trends for 2022 is bringing more plant life into your home, and adding it to your flat roof is a great way to do just that! If you’re in the Algarve and looking for the perfect low-maintenance plants to populate your roof, a great way to go is succulent plants in the stonecrop family, which are both heat and drought resistant, specifically:

  • Pale stonecrop
  • Goldmoss stonecrop
  • Jenny’s stonecrop
  • White stonecrop

And one last, important thought: though it may be easier to get a green roof set up if your roof is flat, don’t let it hold you back if your roof’s gabled or otherwise, because:

While flat roofs may triumph in the Algarve, green roofs are the ultimate jackpot!

Green roof in the Algarve
Anabela Macieira
Core Architects — CEO and Founder