Rooftop revolution on Amsterdam houseboats

Green rooftop revolution on Amsterdam houseboats

Every revolution has a starting point, and in Amsterdam it was marked by three houseboats on the canal Da Costakade that were covered with a green roof in a day. The final goal of a small non-profit-organization called ‘Grachten van Smaragd’ (Emerald Canals) is to cover all rooftops of the 2500 floating homes with a organic green roof.

“Yes, it is very ambitious, but we still have 8 years to go before before we want to have reached this goal”
, says Toon van de Put, Initiator of Grachten van Smaragd.  “We think it is a unique and valuable gift to the city of Amsterdam in 2025 when she is celebrating her 750th birthday. A precious piece of jewelry that will make the city shine!”

Green rooftop houseboat Amsterdam
One of the three houseboats that got a green roof on the same day, celebrated with live music. (photo: Juul Steyn/

The start of the project was on September 12th. The owners of three houseboats in the Amsterdam West district have worked hard to transform their roofs into a green garden, all in one day. A week earlier another houseboat got a sedum roof already. 'Emerald Canals' played an important coordinating role. The organization does not only raise attention and provide information but also helps in applying for a municipality grant (half is reimbursed by the municipality of Amsterdam).

Energy saving on houseboats

The purpose is not only to give the more usually gray roofs a more beautiful appearance. Another important reason to choose a sedum roof is energy saving. During summer, a houseboat with green roof is three to five degrees cooler. On regular houses a sedum roof also has a large water storage capacity.

Sedum roof houseboat - do it yourself
It took this houseboat owner a few hours and two friends to get the job done. "Hard work, but very rewarding!" (photo: Juul Steyn/

Green roofs increase biodiversity 

In addition, it contributes to the biodiversity in the city (bees keeping sedum and the plants that grow in it) and catching particulate matter. For the owners of the houseboats, there are a few other great advantages: after a green roof is laid, the roofing lasts two to three times longer and you are less affected by rain and city noise such as passing trams and other traffic as it damps the noise.

The passers-by who first saw a green roof on a houseboat found it to be very beautiful. "What a great difference with the rest of the houseboats," says Martin, who has a bicycle shop around the corner. "This is really an enrichment of the city. I would love it if all houseboats looked so!"

Houseboat green roof before
Before (photo: Juul Steyn/

Houseboat green roof after
After (photo: Juul Steyn/

Organizations who support ‘Emerald Canals’

The City of Amsterdam - Subsidizes 50% of the costs

Gezonde Stad (Healthy City) - Gives advice about sustainability in the city

Rooftoprevolution - information and crowdfunding for green roofs