Greening of our rooftops

When planners are discussing sustainability, the topic of green roofs may pop up… the possibilities and challenges. If your first thought of green roofs are lawns on top of buildings, keep in mind that they can range from sparse installations with a couple inches of dirt and ground cover, to roofs with many feet of soil and mature trees. While some green roofs use plants that do not require irrigation, the basic idea is to load dirt, plants, and water on top of a building. Done well, there are many benefits. Done poorly, they can be expensive mistakes.

Below are a variety of blogs addressing different aspects about green roofs. The intent is to provide the reader with a broad view of this technology and its implications.

Introduction to Green Roofs: For an overview of green roofs, I selected a classmate’s blog, Roots in Roofs. Cody Butler touches on the history and benefits of this type of roofing.

Refurbishing the Past: Green Roofs and Historic Buildings: A Matter of Context encourages owners of older and historic buildings to research options and not automatically select green roofs. They should make informed decisions about what will improve the energy performance of the building, but not adversely impact its historic character.

Corporate Citizenship: Highlighting a major U.S. corporation’s accomplishment, Ford’s green roof caps a decade of innovation describes how Ford Motor Company recently marked its 10-year anniversary of the largest living roof in North America.

Living roof, Ford's Michigan River Rouge truck factory. Photo credit: Sustainable Business News

Living roof, Ford’s Michigan River Rouge truck factory. Photo credit: Sustainable Business News

Global Innovation: As an enhancement to my own blog on global container architecture, the blog WFH House: A green abode that conceals freight container framework features a container home in Wuxi, China with a sloping vegetative roof that is designed to harvest rainwater and features integrated solar cells.

World FLEX Home, Wuxi, China. Photo credit:

World FLEX Home, Wuxi, China. Photo credit:

Policy Implications: Shelter for the Storm: Comparing Blue and Green Roofs reviews a partnership between the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Education in Queens, NY. Data will be collected for three years to determine if green or blue roofs perform better as stormwater management systems. The results of the study may greatly impact the future and application of green roofs.

Education: Public and private universities are embracing green roofs not only for the energy-saving potential but for the research applications as well. In 20 colleges leading the way on green roofs, Western universities are well-represented by Boise State University, University of Idaho, Colorado State University, University of Washington, and Evergreen State College.

Public-Private Partnerships: The result of a partnership between the Gates Foundation and the city of Seattle is featured in Photos of Seattle’s largest green roof at the Gates Foundation garage. At 60,000 square feet or about 1.4 acres, it is the largest green roof in Seattle.

Green roof, Gates Foundation parking garage, Seattle, WA. Photo credit:

Green roof, Gates Foundation parking garage, Seattle, WA. Photo credit:

Today, the green roof business is growing rapidly, and is expected to become a $7 billion market by 2017. As shown in the blogs above, green roofs are located around the world. In the U.S., they are even found at Wal-Mart stores and airports. While not a one-size-fits-all solution for sustainability, planners may apply the use of green roofs in unique ways suitable to different regions and climates.