Green Roofs for Urban Businesses – Building Success and Healthy Cities Across the Globe

Cities across the globe are facing major challenges with ever-increasing demands for energy, stormwater management and mounting levels of carbon pollution which lead to climate change. With more people moving out of rural areas and into [already] densely populated urban environments, space for parks, trees and gardens at ground level is rapidly diminishing.

An increasing number of governments are providing tax incentives to businesses go ‘green’, and many urban businesses and developers are now incorporating green rooftops in their projects.  It’s good business economically and contributes to a better environment which means higher quality projects.  Green roofs are a way of reaping the economic benefit of tax incentives that encourage a reduction in a business’s carbon footprint, lowers utility cost and provides natural habitats for beneficial birds and insects, whose natural habitats are disappearing into concrete jungles.  

Let’s take a closer look at what makes up a green roof.

In its most basic form, a green roof is made up of a waterproofing membrane, growing medium and low-lying vegetation. A more complex green roof might include a root barrier, irrigation system and larger plants or trees.

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Find out more about the different types of green roofs in our article Top 5 Benefits of Green Roof Design For Your Home

A green roof can save your business money!

In addition to the tax incentives previously mentioned, a green roof can save your business a lot of money on energy costs. The primary factor in the energy cost reduction is a decrease in the heat island effect associated with asphalt, concrete and metal surfaces – reducing temperatures of the roof surface and the surrounding air.  It also provides a layer of natural insulation to buildings which lessens the demand for air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter.

Chicago City Hall

Considered the industry frontrunner among North American cities, Chicago used a mix of intensive and extensive vegetation to cover 20,000 square feet atop its City Hall in 2001. In August of that year, researchers recorded a rooftop temperature of 119 degrees in the planted area, compared with a blistering 169 degrees on an adjoining black tar roof. Since then, the green roof has saved the city an estimated $3,600 in annual cooling and heating costs.

Green roofs are good for the environment!

As we lose more of our urban green spaces we give way to destructive amounts of carbon pollution. Green roofs are able to absorb carbon dioxide out of the air, allowing urban dwellers to breathe fresher air while reducing overall carbon footprint.

Scientists at Michigan State University found that replacing traditional roofing materials with green roofs in an urban area the size of Detroit, with a population of about one million, would capture more than 55,000 tons of carbon. That is roughly similar to eliminating a year’s worth of carbon dioxide emitted by 10,000 midsize SUVs and trucks.

What’s more, by absorbing rainwater and using it to feed the vegetation, green roofs have the potential of reducing stormwater runoff by 60%. The water that doesn’t get absorbed gets filtered through the green roof medium and flora, making it much cleaner when it goes into our storm drains, rivers, lakes and oceans.

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Stay Ahead of the Curve – Be a Part of the Solution

Governments that have instituted tax incentive programs have been very successful at spurring construction of green roofs. Some governments have gone as far as implementing an ordinance requiring large buildings to have green roofs.

In Denver, voters approved a prescriptive approach to the construction of green roofs on existing and new buildings.  The recently instituted green roof ordinance requires the construction of green roofs, or photovoltaic panels in lieu of green roofs, to be implemented in re-roofing projects for most buildings greater than 25,000sf or more.  The ordinance has met resistance from property owners who “didn’t see it coming” and suddenly have a cost burden placed upon them by government.

If you are a business owner looking for ways for your business to go ‘green’, or simply searching for an environmentally friendly way to cut costs, a green roof is definitely worth considering, and it will put you ahead of the curve.

If you are a building owner in a city that does not yet have incentives for green roof construction, consider encouraging your local government to create some. It’s good for the business economy, the environment and everyone living in cities across the globe.

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