The "green" movement has taken over our way of thinking. From hybrid cars traveling the streets to reusable shopping bags being offered in grocery stores, we find green initiatives everywhere we go. With the big push from various organizations and government legislation, this is a trend that we will hear about for years to come. Many cities are encouraging the installation of green roofs, an aesthetically appealing, more energy efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to tar, gravel ballast, shingles or tiles. To the people who know how to make money by being green, it's music to their ears.
As with many trends, Europe was the first to embrace green roofs and see a rapid increase in popularity. Thanks to government legislative and financial support, the industry is now well established, yet still experiencing growth.
In the United States, industry leaders have begun doing more consumer education, a necessity in understanding the long-term benefits and looking beyond the initial cost.
In 2000, Chicago's City Hall exchanged its tar roof for a green one. It began as a demonstration project for the city's Urban Heat Island Initiative.
Through the initiative, scientists have helped monitor differences experienced through the change, and one major difference was confirmed early on. At 1:45 p.m. on Aug. 9, 2001, the ambient temperature was in the 90s. When rooftop temperatures were checked, scientists found there was at least a 50-degree difference between the new green roof and a tar roof. Based on this, the city anticipated saving $3,600 per year on energy costs through an estimated annual reduction of 9,272 kilowatt hours and 7,372 therms of natural gas.
After calculating the success of this project, the city now requires new buildings receiving city financing to have green roof. It also offers grants to retrofit green roofs on existing buildings. Seattle followed suit, requiring 30 percent plant coverage on commercial developments in certain zones. Even more recently, New York City passed legislation offering a significant tax credit to buildings adding green roofs. If a building owner covers at least 50 percent of the structure with greenery, there will be a full-year property tax credit up to $100,000.
Besides showing the support that's spreading nationwide to install green roofs, these locations also illustrate that the market for green roofs isn't just in warmer climates. Rather, the main U.S. growth has been focused around bigger cities that have been suffering from the Urban Heat Island Effect. Climates don't dictate feasibility, only vegetation choice and possible irrigation options. For example, the "Windy City" chose drought-resistant plants to counter moisture lost due to high winds.
Moving from arduous to efficient
With the U.S. being in the infancy of this growing trend, demand for green roof contractors, landscape architects and installers can be expected to grow as well. There are several players in the green rooftop business that anticipate job growth.
When considering the application, an engineer must first determine if a building's structure can accommodate the weight of being retrofitted with a green roof. For new buildings, architects must work the concept into the plans. Contractors choose the material and vegetation based on the customer's needs and location, and after installing the initial waterproofing and drainage layers, they prepare and apply growing media to the roof. Later, the contractor and landscapers may return to plant vegetation.
Of these jobs, great advancements have been made in the process of applying the growing media. The old method--and the one still employed by a number of contractors--involves using a crane to hoist material to the roof, where a crew of workers uses wheelbarrows to haul, dump and spread it, making it as even as possible to ready it for plantings. …