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Green roofs serve several purposes for a building, such as absorbing rainwater, providing insulation, creating a habitat for wildlife, increasing benevolence,[4] and decreasing stress of the people around the roof by providing a more aesthetically pleasing landscape, and helping to lower urban air temperatures and mitigate the heat island effect. [1] They effectively use the natural functions of plants to filter water and treat air in urban and suburban landscapes. [11] A 2005 study by Brad Bass of the University of Toronto showed that green roofs can also reduce heat loss and energy consumption in winter conditions.

[12] A modeling study found that adding green roofs to 50 percent of the available surfaces in downtown Toronto would cool the entire city by 0.1 to 0.8 °C (0.2 to 1.4 °F). [15] Traditional building materials soak up the sun's radiation and re-emit it as heat, making cities at least 4 °C (7.2 °F) hotter than surrounding areas. [16] Green roofs are becoming common in Chicago, as well as in Atlanta, Portland, and other United States cities, where their use is encouraged by regulations to combat the urban heat-island effect.

[17] In the case of Chicago, the city has passed codes offering incentives to builders who put green roofs on their buildings. Green roofs play a significant role in retrofitting the Low Impact Development (LID) practices in urban areas. [20] A study presented at the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities Conference in June 2004, cited by the EPA, found water runoff was reduced by over 75% during rainstorms. [21] Many green roofs are installed to comply with local regulations and government fees, often regarding stormwater runoff management. Often, phosphorus and nitrogen are in this category of environmentally harmful substances even though they are stimulating to the growth of plant life and agriculture. [24] Even in high-rise urban settings as tall as 19 stories, it has been found that green roofs can attract beneficial insects, birds, bees and butterflies.

Rooftop greenery complements wild areas by providing stepping stones for songbirds, migratory birds and other wildlife facing shortages of natural habitat. By improving the thermal performance of a roof, green roofing allows buildings to better retain their heat during the cooler winter months while reflecting and absorbing solar radiation during the hotter summer months, allowing buildings to remain cooler. Depending on the region in which a green roof is installed, incentives may be available in the form of stormwater tax reduction, grants, or rebates.

The regions where these incentives will most likely be found are areas where failing storm water management infrastructure is in place, urban heat island effect has significantly increased the local air temperature, or areas where environmental contaminants in the storm water runoff is of great concern. The addition of a green roof to an existing structure led to this collapse at the City University of Hong Kong Another disadvantage is that the wildlife they attract may include pest insects which could easily infiltrate a residential building through open windows.

The additional mass of the soil substrate and retained water places a large strain on the structural support of a building. Standard maintenance include removing debris, controlling weeds, deadhead trimming, checking moisture levels, and fertilizing. [35] The most significant effect comes from scarce rainfall which will increase the maintenance energy due to the watering required.

Green roofs can be categorized as intensive, semi-intensive, or extensive, depending on the depth of planting medium and the amount of maintenance they need.

Intensive roofs are more park-like with easy access and may include anything from kitchen herbs to shrubs and small trees. [47] Extensive green roofs, by contrast, are designed to be virtually self-sustaining and should require only a minimum of maintenance, perhaps a once-yearly weeding or an application of slow-release fertiliser to boost growth.

To protect the roof, a waterproofing membrane is often used, which is manufactured to remain watertight in extreme conditions including constant dampness, ponding water, high and low alkaline conditions and exposure to plant roots, fungi and bacterial organisms. These early shelters provided protection from the elements, good insulation during the winter months, and a cool location in the summer. A number of European Countries have very active associations promoting green roofs, including Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Sweden, the UK, and Greece. [51] Germany was the first country to start developing green roof systems and market them on a large scale. [50] The City of Linz in Austria has been paying developers to install green roofs since 1983, and in Switzerland it has been a federal law since the late 1990s. In the UK, their uptake has been slow, but a number of cities have developed policies to encourage their use, notably London and Sheffield.

Numerous North American cities offer tax incentives to developers who integrate green roofs in their buildings. Roof greening makes the biggest difference…where the building proportion is high and the evaporative fraction is low. Industrial brownfield sites can be valuable ecosystems, supporting rare species of plants, animals and invertebrates. Construction techniques for brown roofs are typically similar to those used to create flat green roofs, the main difference being the choice of growing medium (usually locally sourced rubble, gravel, soil, etc...) to meet a specific biodiversity objective.

[58] In Switzerland, it is common to use alluvial gravels from the foundations; in London, a mix of brick rubble and some concrete has been used. The original idea was to allow the roofs to self-colonise with plants, but they are sometimes seeded to increase their biodiversity potential in the short term.

Laban, a centre for contemporary dance in London, has a brown roof specifically designed to encourage the nationally rare black redstart. [60] A green roof, 160 m (520 ft) above ground level, and claimed to be the highest in the UK and Europe "and probably in the world" to act as nature reserve, is on the Barclays Bank HQ in Canary Wharf. [61] Designed combining the principles of green and brown roofs, it is already home to a range of rare invertebrates.

2017 Award: Seeding Green Roofs for Greater Biodiversity and Lower Costs, Lincoln, NE, USA.

The Victorian Desalination Project[63] will have a "living tapestry" of 98,000 Australian indigenous plants over a roof area spanning more than 26,000 m2 (280,000 square feet). The green roof was designed by ASPECT Studios, ARM / pecvkvonhartel architecture, and will be installed by Fytogreen Australia.

Since 2008, City Councils and influential business groups in Australia have become active promoting the benefits of green roofs. In June 2014 ecological artist Lloyd Godman, with structural engineer Stuart Jones and environmental scientist Grant Harris collaborated to install an experiment using Tillandsia plants in extreme outdoor conditions at levels 92, 91, 65 and 56 on Eureka Tower in Melbourne, Australia. [65] Godman has also experimented with Tillandsia plant screens that can be moved across skylights to create shade in summer and to allow in sun during winter. The city of Toronto approved a by-law in May 2009[66] mandating green roofs on residential and industrial buildings.

There is criticism from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities that the new laws are not stringent enough, since they will only apply to residential building that are a minimum of six stories high. Simon Fraser University's Burnaby campus contains a substantial number of green roofs.

Canada's first LEED Platinum V4 Home in Wakefield QC, EcoHome's Edelweiss House,[72] has a living Green Roof which is sloped at 12 degrees. Native plants, mostly flowers chosen for the environment, maximum shade and mass provide a colorful and functional living roof.

No soil is placed directly on the roof itself, thus eliminating the need for an insulating layer; instead, plants are grown on wooden tables.

Vegetables and fruit are the most popular candidates, providing a fresh, healthy source of food that is free from pesticides.

A more advanced method, (aquaponics), being used experimentally in Egypt, is farming fish next to plants in a closed cycle. There is on-going research on the topic as the conditions in the southern Europe are very different from those in the north and knowledge acquired there can't be directly applied to colder climates.

Green roof planted with native species at L'Historial de la Vendée, a new museum in western France In France, an 8,000 m2 (86,000 square feet) extensive, cable-supported green roof has been created on the International School in Lyon.

[74] Another huge green roof of roughly 8,000 m2 (86,000 square feet) has been incorporated into the new museum L'Historial de la Vendée which opened in June 2006 at Les Lucs-sur-Boulogne. Long-held green roof traditions started in the early industrialization period more than 100 years ago exist in Germany. In the 1980s modern green roof technology was common knowledge in Germany while it was practically unknown in any other country in the world. In Stuttgart, with one of the most innovative Department of Parks and Recreation and with the world's oldest horticultural Universities, modern green roof technology was perfected and implemented on a large scale.

It was founded in 1975 by eight professional organizations for "the improvement of environmental conditions through the advancement and dissemination of plant research and its planned applications". The FLL green roof working group is only one of 40 committees which have published a long list of guidelines and labor instructions.

Some of these guidelines also available in English including the German FLL-Guideline for the Planning, Execution and Upkeep of Green-Roof Sites.

[75] Today most elements of the German FLL are part of standards and guidelines around the world (FM Global, ASTM, NRCA, SPRI etc. Fachvereinigung Bauwerksbegrünung (FBB) was founded in 1990 as the second green roof association after DDV (Deutscher Dachgaertner Verband) in 1985. The organization was born from the then-visionary idea of understanding the relationship between nature and constructions not as oppositional, but as an opportunity.

The FBB has developed to become an innovative lobbying group with a strong market presence, internationally known through its cooperation with other European associations. Green-roof research institutions are located in several cities as including Hannover, Berlin, Geisenheim and Neubrandenburg.

[76] Green roofs in Germany are part of the 2 –3 years apprentice educations system of landscaping professionals. The Greek Ministry of Finance has now installed a green roof on the Treasury in Constitution Square in Athens. Studies of the thermodynamics of the roof in September 2008 concluded that the thermal performance of the building was significantly affected by the installation. [78] In further studies, in August 2009, energy savings of 50% were observed for air conditioning in the floor directly below the installation.

The study also stated that while measurements were being made by thermal cameras, a plethora of beneficial insects were observed on the roof, such as butterflies, honey bees and ladybirds. Finally, the study suggested that both the micro-climate and biodiversity of Constitution Square, in Athens, Greece had been improved by the oikostegi.

Switzerland has one of Europe's oldest green roofs, created in 1914 at the Moos lake water-treatment plant, Wollishofen, Zürich.

A meadow developed from seeds already present in the soil; it is now a haven for many plant species, some of which are now otherwise extinct in the district, most notably 6,000 Orchis morio (green-winged orchid).

The International Green Roof Institute (IGRI) opened to the public in April 2001 as a research station and educational facility. (It has since been renamed the Scandinavian Green Roof Institute (SGRI), in view of the increasing number of similar organisations around the world.)

The new Bo01 urban residential development (in the Västra Hamnen (Western Harbour) close to the foot of the Turning Torso office and apartment block, designed by Santiago Calatrava) is built on the site of old shipyards and industrial areas, and incorporates many green roofs. [83] More recent examples can be found at the University of Nottingham Jubilee Campus, and in London at Sainsbury's Millennium Store in Greenwich, the Horniman Museum and at Canary Wharf. The Ethelred Estate, close to the River Thames in central London, is the British capital's largest roof-greening project to date.

In the United Kingdom, intensive green roofs are sometimes used in built-up city areas where residents and workers often do not have access to gardens or local parks. [85] Dr Nigel Dunnett of Sheffield University published a UK-centric book about green roofing in 2004 (updated 2008). The UK also has one of the most innovative food preparation facilities in Europe, the Kanes salad factory in Evesham.

The seed mix was prepared in consultation with leading ecologists to try to minimise the impact on the local environment. [88] The pre-grown wildflower blanket sits on top of a standing seam roof and is combined with solar panels to create an eco-friendly finish to the entire factory. The largest green roof in New York City was installed in midtown Manhattan atop the United States Postal Service's Morgan Processing and Distribution Center.

Covered in native vegetation and having an expected lifetime of fifty years, this green roof will not only save the USPS approximately $30,000 a year in heating and cooling costs, but will also significantly reduce the amount of storm water contaminants entering the municipal water system. Chicago City Hall Green Roof won merit design award of the American Society of Landscape Architecture (ASLA) competition in 2002. The 14,000 square feet (1,300 m2) of outdoor space on the seventh floor of Zeckendorf Towers, formerly an undistinguished rooftop filled with potted plants, make up the largest residential green roof in New York.

[95][96][97] The roof was transformed in 2010 as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's NYC Green Infrastructure campaign, and supposedly serves to capture some of the rain that falls on it rather than letting it run off and contribute to flooding in the adjacent Union Square subway station. [98] Maintenance of green roofs often includes fertilization to increase flowering and succulent plant cover. One of the oldest American green roofs in existence is atop the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, built in 1936.

This roof was primarily an aesthetic undertaking for the enjoyment of the center's workers, and remains to this day, having been refurbished in 1986.

This phenomenon is in large part due to efforts on behalf of the city to encourage green roofs through new and improved building codes. [106] The program rewards the incorporation of landscaping in new building developments in an attempt to reduce stormwater runoff and associated pollution, stabilize temperatures, and create habitats for birds and insects.

[107] These changes were expanded in 2009 to recognize the specific stormwater benefits of green roofs, and to reward developers who used them accordingly. [110] In light of the success in Seattle, other cities such as Portland, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. have all made efforts to develop their own Green Factor programs.

The Seattle City Hall has led the way by implementing a green roof project that has involved the planting of more than 22,000 pots of sedum, fescue, and grass.

[112] The Park Place building in Seattle's downtown provides a leading example of the use of landscaping to recapture rain water with the hopes of cutting back spending on utilities.

In 2003, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation introduced a “green roof demonstration project” in combination with the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority. [113] This program issued grants to several pilot green roofs, which would assist with the cost of construction for the building owner.

There is also possibility through the RiverSmart Rewards program for “residents and property owners to receive a significant discount on their water utility fees” if they install approved stormwater management features. [114] In 2016, a rebate of $10-$15 per square feet was introduced, “promoting the voluntary installation of green roofs for the purpose of reducing stormwater runoff and pollutants”.

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