Green Roofs, a Top-Notch Solution

If you live in an urban area, chances are you are familiar with the heat island effect. Ambient temperatures in the city often hover up to 6 degrees higher than in rural areas, especially during the summer. Dark-colored roads and roofs absorb more heat from sunlight, making you feel more uncomfortable. One effective solution for making summers in the city more bearable are green roofs.

What Are Green Roofs?

Just as the name implies, green roofs replace asphalt either partially or completely by all things green. It could be a garden for food or one for show. The vegetation helps lower the ambient temperature by absorbing less heat. As you can imagine, a large group of these roofs in a city can counter the heat island effect and make things much more pleasant–and attractive.

Benefits of a Green Roof

Lower temperatures are not the only benefit. The plants can reduce runoff by absorbing storm waters. The runoff that falls from your roof is cleaner because of the filtering action of the plants and soil. The vegetation can also reduce cooling in the winter by acting as insulation and helping you save on energy costs year round.

But, wait, there’s more. A green roof gives you added garden space to grow fruits and vegetables to save money on your grocery bill. You could also make it a green sanctuary with an array of colorful plants and flowers. You might even consider choosing plants to create habitat for birds and butterflies.

A green roof has the other advantage of being an option if solar panels are not practical in your area. As the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows, some areas are better suited for solar cells than others. A green roof offers an eco-friendly solution if solar power isn’t a viable solution in your area.

The Bigger Picture

Green roofs are an important part of the bigger solution. The heat island effect carries large environmental costs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains that it can increase air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Green roofs, therefore, are a good environmental choice that benefits the entire community.

In fact, they have received a great deal of attention because of these benefits. The French Parliament recently passed a law stating that all new commercial buildings must install a green roof or solar panels. And New York City’s CoolRoofs program is trying a similar approach with white roofs instead of the traditional asphalt. Either way, it pays to start at the top.

A green roof offers an environmentally-friendly choice that can help you save on energy costs while making your neighborhood a little more beautiful with some attractive plants. It’s a good way to do your part to reduce the effects of climate change.

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References:

Digital Journal
http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/france-new-rooftops-must-be-covered-in-plants-or-solar-panels/article/428773
Eureka Alert
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-03/nsfc-bit030712.php

National Renewable Energy Laboratory
http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
http://www.epa.gov/hiri/

Posted in Lessons Learned.