Wed, 2 July 2008
July 2, 2008
Particularly in cities, the rise of roof-topping grasses, succulents and other vegetation is fueling a boom for landscape architects, growers, builders and consultants in the know. As the roofs bloom in size and number, cities are weighing new incentives to developers and owners to install the admittedly costly growing medium and plant life as a long-term investment that could benefit both businesses and surrounding communities. And with a strengthening infrastructure to support them, designers are branching out in new directions.
Steven Peck, founder and president of the Toronto-based industry association Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, said the industry’s “mother ship” hails from Europe, particularly
German policymakers quickly took notice of the advantages, including the potential to reduce both stormwater runoff and the urban heat island effect associated with asphalt, concrete and metal surfaces. In response, they created dozens of incentives and regulations encouraging more green roof construction. In the mid-‘90s, a European industry mostly dominated by French and German firms began expanding into
Peck, himself introduced to the idea in 1997, was tasked with leading a federal study on its benefits and barriers in
One of his committee member spent hours translating many of the studies into English. And even those reports sidestepped analysis of big-picture benefits that had been largely taken for granted.
A decade later, the industry has been buttressed by research and case studies detailing both individual benefits like savings on cooling costs and enhanced commercial values, and bigger-picture pluses like reduced air pollution and storm water overflows.
Another essential element has been building expertise across a talent pool that remains unevenly distributed. Peck’s group has been working for five years on an accreditation program modeled in part on LEED certification (Leadership in Environmental Energy and Design). The new Green Roof Professional, or GRP system, should roll out sometime next year, he said. In the meantime, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities has grown to include more than 80 corporate members and has trained more than 4,500 individuals. “You can’t have an industry unless you can have people who can design and deliver,” he said.