Will the U.S. Join France and Require Green Roofs?

Posted on Mar 26, 2015
Share
Germany has the largest concentration of green roofs with solar panels in the world. This is a school roof in Unterensinge, Germany, constructed in 2003. Photo: Courtesy Greenroofs.com database

Germany has the largest concentration of green roofs with solar panels in the world. This is a school roof in Unterensinge, Germany, constructed in 2003. Photo: Courtesy Greenroofs.com database

You may have read the same headlines we did in the past week about new laws passed in France now requiring solar panels or vegetation sections on the roofs of all new commercial construction. French activists were pushing for 100 percent roof coverage but had to settle for Parliament requiring a minimum of coverage.

France isn’t the first to mandate more environmentally friendly construction involving green roofs or solar energy. Germany has been a leader in this effort for 50 years. The City of Toronto is the first city in North America to have a bylaw to require and govern the construction of green roofs on new development.

This is exciting news to those of us who support sustainability efforts in the U.S. At Good Earth Plant Company and GreenScaped Buildings, we know firsthand the benefits that a green roof can provide. They retain rainwater and prevent stormwater runoff and pollution. They reduce the urban heat island effort, and reduce heat gain and loss on buildings which saves on both heating and cooling costs. They limit air pollution and create biodiversity. Our list goes on.

What we especially like about the French effort is combining the benefits of solar panels and green roofs. These two complement each other. Solar panels work better at lower temperatures, and green roof vegetation does this.  Research has shown solar panels will create up to 16% more energy when surrounded with a green roof.

We know all of the benefits. Now the question is how we can encourage green roof and solar energy development in the United States. As a small business owner and a property owner, I don’t like government getting in my way. But I am in favor of providing incentives when there is a greater community benefit, and this is true with green roofs. This has been done in Germany with great success. It started slowly on a local level, and over time the incentives grew and became better coordinated.

In San Diego, there is one modest incentive. Projects constructed in downtown San Diego receive a density bonus if a green roof covers 50 percent of the building. It’s a start.

But we do not have to wait for the government. Public participation can begin with education about our environmental challenges and the solutions green infrastructure can provide. This blog and my speaking engagements including our Lunch and Learn sessions are my contribution. There are many citizen groups doing the same.

We can increase public acceptance, and by communicating with our representatives, public policy decisions will follow. In the city of Berlin, new stormwater charges helped the public understand how they were contributing to environmental problems. Individuals were able to take action to reduce those fees by incorporating green practices and reduce their stormwater runoff on their properties.

We love having this dialogue about green building with you. Get in touch with us at Good Earth Plant Company if you’d like to keep the conversation going.