Are Green Roofs Right for Your Business?

Are Green Roofs Right for Your Business?

Green roofs have increased in popularity in recent years, especially among major cities in North America and Europe. However, this is not a new concept. Rockefeller had buildings with green roofs in NYC as early as the 1930’s and the first green roofs in history appeared as early as 500 B.C. Despite the long history, green roofs are a growing industry with square footage in North America increasing nearly 20 million sqft since 2004.

There are two different kinds of green roofs; intensive and extensive. Intensive roofs have less vegetation within the soil by smaller plants using only 3-6cm of soil depth. Intensive roofs require more maintenance, and is great for businesses that will be using their roofs, as it’s much more appealing and has many more plant options. Extensive contrary are much more diverse, and ecologically rich, with at least 6cm of soil depth. Extensive is better for businesses that won’t be using their roof, and offers lower maintenance, nutrients and irrigation requirements. Depending on the type you choose, there are a whole host of benefits to having a green roof.

Environmental Benefits

Green roofs are a great way to lower and offset your carbon footprint and improve the environment in your business’s city. Green roofs are a great way to improve the air quality in cities. It is a widely accepted way of reducing air pollution in cities, with green roofs using their vegetation and plants to offset carbon. Green roofs are also a great way to encourage healthy biodiversity in urban areas. With a wide variety based on the city, green roofs can support a different number of habitats and wildlife. Green roofs are widely famous for helping decrease Urban Heat Effect.

Energy Use

Buildings account for 39% of carbon in the US and 44% in the UK. Green roofs help significantly to reduce the heating and cooling of buildings, with green roofs being used as an effective way of insulating roofs. Air Conditioners alone use 5% of all the electricity in the US. One study from 1981 says “that flat un-vegetated roofs can be up to 21 degrees Celsius hotter than [green] vegetated roofs”. Research from Nottingham Trent University showed significant beneficial temperature differences for both summer and winter months. During summer, beneath normal roofs, an average temperature of 32C was recorded but beneath green roofs the average dropped to 17C. In the winter, regular roofs recorded 0.2C but green roofs recorded 4.7C. Green roofs have also shown to increase noise insulation and reduce noise by 8db, and even up to 40 decibels in some cases.

Cost Implications

Green roofs cost approximately $10 – $40 per square foot, compared to standard waterproof roofs at $6 a square foot. Although more expensive, green roofs have a lifespan double the length of a conventional roof, which shows promising savings for businesses in the long run. Green roofs also preserve heat in colder months and cool buildings in hotter months cutting from energy bills as mentioned above. Green roofs can also attract a market and customers interested in eco-friendly products. Green roofs can be used to obtain from 15 – 20 LEED certification points, which is a world-renowned certification that has been proven to help businesses grow their business. Intensive green roofs can also be greatly beneficial for businesses in the tourism sector as these green roofs can be used for recreational areas, which are great for you customers in the summer months.

So Why Not?

So with all these great benefits why wouldn’t a business install green roofs? Like anything else, green roofs may not be suitable for every business. Green roofs can add a significant amount weight to the roof, which can create stress on your roofs beams if they’re not capable of supporting more weight, usually adding between 14 – 35 pounds, which limits what buildings can properly support them. Also depending on the kind of green roof you install, it can increase labour costs for the maintenance needed. Lastly, although more beneficial than the traditional roof for the environment, one study found that painting your roof white is a better way to fight against climate change compared to green roofs. Although it is becoming more expected for the private sector to help fight climate change, the way in which businesses should do that is not limited to just green roofs. Green roofs can be seriously damaged if the building is in a geographical region with a harsh climate, so make sure your business knows how to properly care for vegetated roofs.
To conclude, green roofs improve air quality, biodiversity and wildlife by increasing vegetation in cities and decreasing the albedo effect and they’re a great way to help businesses cut their energy bill and eliminate from their C02/kwh emissions. However, green roofs aren’t suitable for every building, location and even every business, but can be a great green solution if your business fits the criteria as a way of advancing in social responsibilities and green practices.

Matt Hussey Ecobase Certified

  Written by Matt Hussey

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