Have you heard of many green roofs being put on homes in New York? I’m curious, as there doesn’t seem to be much news about residential green roofs and I am wondering how easy it is to do for a house and the relative cost/benefits. —John, Brooklyn
In general, roofs that incorporate vegetation are taking off more quickly in urban areas than rural or suburban settings. New York City has some amazing green roofs, including a 2.5-acre garden on top of a U.S. Postal Service facility. A super-cool 7,200-square-foot green lawn was designed for a public space on top of a restaurant in the new Lincoln Center plaza.
New York House has done some good stories on green roofs. One was "Green Overhead: Creating a living roof just got easier." The article had information on Rochester-based Green Living Technologies (agreenroof.com), which sells lightweight modular green roof systems that are installed with interlocking trays or panels and can come pre-planted. Prices start around $10 per square foot, not including installation. The modular nature of this product reportedly makes installation easier, but if you don’t DIY, plan on full cost between $10 and $20 per square foot.
Another article we did here at New York House was "Green Roofs: Long popular in Europe, roof plantings gain ground with innovative local builders." Check out the resource links to dig into some local resources on green roofs.
A good New York contact to check out is Amy Norquist, founder of Greensulate (greensulate.com).
A dual-function product I just discovered is the GoGreenRoof Water Harvesting System that includes a cistern that collects rainwater off the green roof via hidden gutters. The water delivered into the cistern is used for the drip irrigation, which waters the roof vegetation and can also be diverted for other watering purposes (gogreenroof.biz).
As to cost and benefits, green roofs can be quite stunning and awe-inspiring, both from the perspective of standing on them and seeing them from a distance. They also reduce energy for heating and cooling and water runoff and filter pollutants and CO2 out of the air. All in all though, if you are not flush with cash, green roofs are definitely not the top priority in green spending. If you have limited funds, it’s better to become more energy efficient and/or buy a renewable energy system.
I look at the notion of green roofs as a sort of metaphor: Green roofs, like green homes are not so much about physical things as about living a healthy, fully integrated life. Thus, green roofs in the end are not just about growing vegetation on them. Green roofs can mean white roofs reflecting heat in hot climates. They’re made with recycled rubber shingles and collect water. Better yet, green roofs generate electricity or hot water and proclaim, "I don’t need dirty fossil fuels anymore." —Paul
Have a question for Paul? We encourage feedback and dialogue about subjects that appear in this column. E-mail Paul at email@example.com
Check out his blog, thenewyorkgreenadvocate.blogspot.com