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The pitched roof is a bore. It necessarily requires more material to construct and just creates wasted space (unless it's low slung over a modern one-story). Today's construction technologies have solved the issues of water penetration and are even offering solutions for growing plants that mitigate water run-off and heat gain.

There's a great example of this at Pistal's Nursery (Mississippi). Though I don't understand the need for their building a turn-of-the-century farmhouse building, they do have an amazing livable roofdeck.

As for those conservative Living Smart homes I wish your input had been more broadly accepted. There's a market for modern homes today. Look at all the new magazines sprouting modern looks (Dwell) and Portland's own downtown. It may take a builder with a vision (like Eichler had) to make it happen; Portland could use one.

There's no reason the only available option for modern living in Portland should be in high-rise homes.


It's the rain. Our house in Eugene had a pitched roof on the main structure and a flat roofed add on bedroom. Guess which leaked? I converted the attic into a home office/garrett/loft, using the sloped side areas for shelves of books and CDs so all the space was usable. I agree with the need for more variety, though.


I own a 1920-era flat roofed home in North Portland. We luckily don't have problems with rain and I like how the style stands out in our traditional pitched-roof neighborhood. I have wondered about converting it the roof to a garden or deck, but as it wasn't originally designed for this, haven't pursued it much.

The one thing that worries me about owning a flat roofed home in this climate is resale value/buyer appeal. I'm worried it will be hard to sell because of misconceptions about problems with a flat roof. The same concern probably deters developers from building new homes in this style.


The pitched roof can be boring, but that’s just the consequence of design specifics. The pitched roof can offer good usable space too, especially combined with dormers and skylights. Some people really enjoy the space created by a pitched roof fitted this way. Such roofs can be very attractive and evocative of the culture and environment from where they came. Gray weathered shingles can echo the rocks, foliage, and undulations of the country around them in a pleasing way.

Despite advances in modern technology, construction of a water tight flat roof intended for additional use besides shedding the elements must be critical and complicated. Rain and snow is a very practical reason for using a pitched roof. Gravity can’t help a flat roof nearly as easily as it can help a pitched roof. Weight loads have to be considered where people are going to doing things upon them regularly.

Flat roofs can be very good too though, as we see in pueblos or in some tibetan houses. Flat roofs optimize the use of the rectangular shape for a house that can be stepped up or down easily to follow land contours. Loyd Wright’s falling water does this right?

Both can be done well. Each is often used purely for style alone. Maybe that’s a mistake that should be corrected for the future.


As usual, the main reason is cost. For a typical middle class house it costs nearly twice as much to cover a flat roof with an EPDM-type material as it does the same sized pitched roof with asphalt shingles. Sadly, I think most homeowners want to save that money and put it towards their Wolf ranges and Subzero fridges ...


I've lived in two cities that had a lot of flat-roof houses with roof decks on top, and I've noticed in both places that nobody ever seems to be using those decks. (In the year and a half I lived in a house with a roof deck, I don't think I spent more than a half-hour up there.) So I've concluded that the roof deck is one of those things that sounds like a great idea in theory but in reality turns out to be a disappointment: too hard too get to, not very attractive, uncomfortably hot, etc.


Using rooftop space as an outdoor amenity would seem to be especially desirable for higher density development on small sites, where usable unbuilt ground space is scarce. I do wonder why roof terraces aren't used more for such development. Perhaps it's because most such projects are speculative and roof space doesn't count as saleable or rentable floor space, so probably isn't seen as worth the additional expense?

That being said, I find that the criticisms of pitched roofs coming from some who are Modernistically-inclined are too often reactionary. Can't we recognize the benefits of flat roofs without denigrating pitched roofs? Pitched roofs tend to be more forgiving than flat roofs in rainy climates - being less prone to problems from less-than-perfect craftsmanship/installation and by keeping water moving. I grew up in sunnier places where flat roofs are the norm. The Pacific Northwest's predominance of pitched roofs struck me as providing a distinctive architectural character to its communities. Is anything wrong with this predominence? Is there a reason to push for pitched roofs in Yemen just so that new buildings look distinct from the old? Why not have contemporary architecture that uses elements of the Vernacular and that can contribute to the further development of a distinctive regional architectural heritage that is responsive to place and climate? Belluschi and Yeon used pitched roofs in their residential architecture, helping to give a regional twist to their Modernism. Shed roofs can be used in very contemporary ways, without aping traditional architectural. Bottom line: pitched roofs are functional and can be an efficient design solution and shouldn't be knocked as if they were useless ornament.

mike conroy

I think that pitched roofs are more attractive than flat roofs simply because there are so many flat roofed structures that aren't being utilized for anything besides a roof. If a building is constructed with a flat roof in this town, it should definately be designed to incorporate a deck with a garden. builders could also choose to apply a green roof:


This would have the benefit of absorbing stormwater runoff in the wet season and solar heat in summer. If you prefer a pitched roof you can try something new that is both energy saving and decorative such as solar shingles:



The flat roof deck element and useful square footage under a pitched roof aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. This option often makes good usable space where the typical roof area is located.


As Portland Monthly would put it:

Export - pitched roof
Import - flat roof


The pitched roof, an ancient building innovation, connotes gemutlichkeit, an untranslatable German word for a romantic sense of home.

Prairie style 4 pitched roofs can be built with just a few feet of rise and harmonize with the neo craftsman style. That style may be ridiculed by some, but it has much more integrity than neo tudor.

I'm not sure a "traditional" friendly vernacular can be developed with a flat roof. Nor should it.

That being said, I think well designed modern can coexist peacefully with older homes. Those older homes, of course will be replaced in a hundred or two years with something perhaps more modern. Of course Roarkish architects want to design bold modern.

Unfortunately design codes cannot insure good design.

The interesting questions are how new vernacular enters the mass visual culture and what tools the city has to promote good design, be it for sustainability or aesthetic sustainability.


I have seen small areas of flat roof decking tucked into aesthetically pleasing and nicely pitched roof areas, where there is very useful space (i.e. a master bedroom). Add some deck furniture and a colorful umbrella and the result is something that is extremely pleasing to the eye. By the way, the interior can be either contemporary or more traditional as you can play off of either element.


I'm not so sure what the issue is... if one wants a roof deck then a flat roof is the way to go, if one doesn't want to use the roof for any other use then a pitched roof makes more sense for drainage issues.

Really anything other than this is pure design-theory-ideology that all "modernist" buildings must have a flat roof and all "traditional" buildings must have a peaked roof. Both ideologies should put what is most practical and efficient for the need required and desired, first.

Randy Leone

Where can I get sone info on flat roofed homes in the 2800sf area? All I can find are the millon dollar ones. thanks.......Randy

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