Green Roof Retrofits and Your Success

Due diligence will ensure you reap the benefits



3) Seize Incentives
More than 400 cities and utility districts nationwide utilize parcel-based stormwater billing practices based on a property’s impervious area.

“Roofs that don’t shed water instantly are a huge benefit to sewer infrastructures, so municipalities will reduce the sewage tax based on the ratio of your green roof surface,” says Rugh.

For example, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) headquarters in Washington, D.C., earned almost $200,000 in tax abatement. (See case study below.) “Each municipality has varying levels of incentives. My suggestion is to research what is available locally. Manufacturers will know of some and can also help with your search,” Griswold says.

Certain sustainability initiatives even offer grants for qualifying projects. “Fee offsets are great, but on the other end, you can get cash to reimburse some of the upfront installation costs,” says Rugh.

For example, Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital in Chicago received $400,000 from the city’s Department of the Environment, which issued grants under its Urban Heat Island Reduction Initiative. (See case study on page 31.)

Another option that incentivizes the investment is financing. “Right now, borrowing is very inexpensive,” says MacDonagh. “If you go to a bank and prove that a green roof is a resilient financial setup for the building, that’s a compelling way to do the project.”

Just like trees, no two buildings are the same, so consider all of the benefits when making a decision.

“Find a system that has more than one purpose. Take a holistic approach. These are working landscapes that provide several services,” says MacDonagh. “Don’t think you need a silver bullet. You can use silver buckshot.”


Case Study #1:

The Garden Walkway Benefit
Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital — Chicago

Construction Type
The fourth story rooftop of an existing structure

Project Highlights
Offering horticulture therapy for patients and employees, the 6,500- square-foot green roof also features a walkway around the garden perimeter that is made of highly reflective, ENERGY STAR rated concrete pavers that reflect solar heat.

ROI Impact
Because the hospital was also in the final stage of an adjacent $23 million multi-phased building addition and renovation during construction (2003), few funds were available. Landscape architects Douglas Hill Associates, Inc. discovered incentives from Chicago’s Department of the Environment, which issued a $400,000 grant under its Urban Heat Island Reduction Initiative.

Source: American Hydrotech, Inc.

Case Study #2:

The Stormwater Retention Benefit
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Headquarters – Washington, D.C.

Construction Type
Renovation of a large office
offering more than 250,000 square feet of workspace

Project Highlights
The major overall goal was to reduce the first flush and/or peak flow impact of water during major storm activity, although the project also coincided with an aggressive renovation to earn LEED Platinum.

ROI Impact
The 28,000-square-foot green roof treats and retains about 416,250 gallons of stormwater annually, meeting both municipal and LEED guidelines. As a result of this reduced stress on the city sewer infrastructure, the project earned tax abatement of almost $200,000.

Source: American Hydrotech, Inc.

Case Study #3:

The Reroofing Benefit
Jacob K. Javits Convention Center – New York

Construction Type
An extensive reroofing and renovation project

Project Highlights
The 292,000-square-foot green roof, which is the second largest on a single, free-standing building in the U.S., contributed to the goal of earning LEED Silver.

ROI Impact
The Javits Center was due for reroofing, and both concrete pavers and green roofs were considered for a protective element over the new waterproof membrane. Pavers necessitated a structural upgrade, so a lifetime-extending, lightweight green roof was preferred. The roof also prevents about 6.8 million gallons of stormwater run-off annually.

Source: Xero Flor America, LLC

Case Study #4:

The Tenant Attraction Benefit
Silver City Townhomes – Milwaukee

Construction Type
Five structures housing 20 rent-to-own three- and four-bedroom townhomes

Project Highlights
Located on land once used by vacant parking lots and old sports courts, the buildings earned a Milwaukee Award for Neighborhood Development Innovation (MANDI) for revitalizing the area.

ROI Impact
The green roofs – totaling 11,577 square feet – were part of a citywide sustainability development. The energy-saving and environmentally friendly structures are likely to attract and retain long-term tenants and owners.

Source: Xero Flor America, LLC


Chris Curtland christopher.curtland@buildings.com is assistant editor of BUILDINGS.


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