Sky high growth—What landscapers need to know about green roofs

Denver’s green roof ordinance could present new opportunities for landscape professionals
The EPA's regional office features a green roof, the first in Colorado, according to the agency. (Photo: EPA)

She noted that the last two green roofs she worked on were before Denver’s initiative passed, but “developers already knew the return on their investment.”

“Their buildings are worth more. They get higher LEED rates,” she said. “They were already seeing the value of it. I think Denver’s initiative passing is just going to reinforce all of that.”

[Related: Benefits of green roofs]

Creath agreed that some professionals will be better prepared for the final rule.

“You have different degrees of developers to this process,” he said. “The roofs we’ve been working on recently have been somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet of additional space, but they’re looking to do planted gardens and vegetable beds. The people who are doing that already, the initiative doesn’t affect them because they’re already doing it.”

He continued, “the people who have to catch up are going to have a bigger hit on their financial issues.”

New partners

Landscapers who take on green-roof projects will find themselves working with partners they’re not familiar with, like structural or civil engineers.

“There’s a water quality element in green roofs: collecting the water on the roof, getting it to drain properly,” Heggem said.

Collaboration is important, Creath said. “The earlier you can get a professional on board like a landscape architect and someone who studied this stuff and has seen and implemented [a green roof], the better for the project.”

Creath added that because a green roof will be the last step in new construction, problems at that stage can be expensive and complex.

“The green roof is the topping on all of these other structures that work together, so we look for a collaboration angle for the entire design community: landscape architects, architects, structural engineers, contractors,” he said.

Landscapers who want to make the most of opportunities raised by the new initiative should consider pursuing designations that highlight their qualifications on these types of projects.

The Green Roof Professional designation, administered by the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, covers design and installation, waterproofing and drainage, and plants and growing media. GRHC launched the program in 2009, and since then, over 750 individuals have earned the designation.

Creath said that since Denver voters approved the initiative in November 2017, about 15 professionals have earned the designation, which he says is the “standard for green-roof training at this point.”

Greening single-family roofs

The primary goal of the initiative is to reduce the urban heat island effect, which is when urban areas experience hotter temperatures than surrounding neighborhoods due to the prevalence of impervious and reflective surfaces, as well as the energy generated in high-density areas.

However, some affluent clients may be interested in incorporating green-roof designs on single-family homes. Creath’s firm has done several single-family green roofs of different sizes and different budgets.

Danielle Andrus

Danielle Andrus is the managing editor of Colorado Builder. She can be reached at [email protected].

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