North

Mixing traditions: Nunavut fur designer installs sod roof in Iqaluit

A well-known Nunavut fur designer is bringing a little bit of her North Atlantic homeland to her new store in Iqaluit — installing a traditional sod roof on top of the building.

'It’s probably going to thrive well,' says Erlingsdottir Simonsen of her Faroe Islands-inspired roof

Nunavut fur designer, Rannva Erlingsdottir Simonsen, is building a traditional sod roof atop her downtown Iqaluit business. (Vincent Robinet/CBC)

A well-known Nunavut fur designer is bringing a little bit of her North Atlantic homeland to her new store in Iqaluit. 

"In celebration of 1000 years of trade between Vikings and Inuit here on South Baffin, I have put sod on my roof," said Rannva Erlingsdottir Simonsen.

'I think nature is really important, and green in the city, I think, is hugely important.' (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

A cherished piece of history

Erlingsdottir Simonsen is originally from the Faroe Islands, a remote archipelago situated in the heart of the North Atlantic's Gulf Stream, about halfway between Norway and Iceland — a self governing region of the Kingdom of Denmark. 

The islands are well-known for their arresting landscape — steep sheer cliffs, high mountains, and sunken valleys make for unforgettable vistas. 

But the islands are equally well-known for their unique architectural heritage, in particular, the cherished grass roofs that top both old and new buildings in every direction. 

A man stands between the iconic green roof houses in Saksun, Stremnoy island, Faroe Islands, Denmark. (Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images)

While green roofs have grown into a symbol for the region, they started out as an efficient and practical solution to protect against rain and provide thermal insulation.

In the summer, green roofs protect buildings from direct solar heat, and in the winter they minimize heat loss through added insulation.

Though the roof itself does retain some rainwater, returning a portion to the atmosphere through evaporation and transpiration, it is typically installed on top of a waterproof membrane that is also rot and root resistant.

It typically requires some extra upkeep as a result — particularly to guard against leaks.

A green roof, tundra style

Simonsen says the decision to top her own downtown business with sod goes beyond the functional benefits.

"I think nature is really important, and green in the city, I think, is hugely important."

But don't expect her new roof to look exactly like the green, grassy turf that tops the buildings of her homeland.

"I believe in using local resources... and local tradition and local craftsmanship," she said. "That is reflected in this sod roof which is tundra, and it's probably going to thrive well."

with files from Mike Salomonie

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