Thursday, June 26, 2008

Green Roofs in China, Helping Beijing Breathe

The greatest inspiration for me to blog about green roofs was my trip to Shanghai, China in January of 2008. There I saw incredible air pollution, which literally was choking.

While I sat in several different office buildings, many stories into the skyline, I observed huge swaths of flat roofs, mostly black, sitting idle. Additionally, I remembered the discussion about how energy starved Shanghai is, as well as concerns about water.

As one of my meetings ran long, and somewhat boring, I began to map out a strategy of how Shanghai could adopt flat green roofs, reduce air pollution, and minimize storm water runoff. I admit, the plan was grandiose, so that's why I settled on a blog instead.

It turns out that in 2006, several stories ran about green roofs in Beijing, where, according to the US embassy, has worse air pollution than Shanghai. Here are some quotes from articles at that time. There is also a nice mention of LEED in there.

"The Beijing Linked Hybrid project, a self-contained city of linked vertical buildings designed by Holl, includes hundreds of apartments as well as stores and schools, and every roof is green. Storm water collected in rooftops will help feed a self-sustaining water system to protect the buildings against water shortages in Beijing, Holl explained.

"They want it and they're willing to pay for it," Holl said of his Chinese clients.

China launched a nationwide drive last month to make energy-saving buildings that help ease fuel shortages and reduce greenhouse gases. The country has also signed an agreement with the United Nations to promote environmentally friendly practices in staging the 2008 Beijing Olympics."
from "Landscape architects tend to a green roof" found at

From the Christian Science Monitor:

""There isn't much pressure for us to promote the green concept," said science ministry official Yang Guoxiong at last week's green inauguration.

"The national government has incredible intentions for a green future." says Mr. Mars. "Really mind-boggling. But we are in an interesting paradox, and I am asking, 'Is it better to have high ambitions, or to be realistic?' "

Let's hope the rest of China can catch the green roof wave and bring clean air to their cities and citizens.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Atlanta High Museum of Art's Green Roof 
CNN did a video report on the green roof at the Atlanta High Museum of Art. The story highlights not only the heating and cooling benefits, but also how the roof will collect storm water runoff. The city of Atlanta believes that the roof system will absorb 60-90% of the storm-water runoff, thus lessening the load on the sewer system, as well as reducing the tax paid by the building owner.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Green Roofs are Old School
As I mention in the introductory post, green roofs have been around for quite a long time. In many cases, using grass or other vegetation for roofing was out of necessity.

In this video from National Geographic, we learn that the ancient settlers of the Faroe Islands used green roofs, and that tradition has continued through today.

While I may repeat this in many if not all of my articles, one of the best reasons for green roofs is that they are cost effective and energy efficient. While it is also good that green roofs remove carbon dioxide and filter fine particulate matter, as well as reduce storm water runoff, if something isn't cost effective, it won't be widely accepted.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Green Roofs Save Money!

One of things I find I like so much about green roofs is that they save money for the owners. When discussing "green" technology, many of them are not cost effective or economically efficient. On another blog I frequent, called Dollars and Sense, found at, they discuss whether certain technologies make economic sense.

In my opinion, if a solution to a problem isn't cost effective, it just won't take off and gain widespread acceptance.

In an article found on AIArchitect ( I found the most relevant quote:

"...Green roofs last two to five times longer than traditional roofs, require less maintenance, save energy by regulating temperature variations, reduce sound pollution, lower stormwater utility fees, receive energy tax credits, and increase property values."

Clearly, this type of roof is a money-maker for the owners and the tenants, as well as contributing to the common good. The article also points out how this green roof is not a roof garden, with up to 6 inches of soil, but rather a true green roof. True green roofs require very little soil, no additional water, and use local plants.

Did I mention this was from 2004? Green roofs are good for the environment, and good for your wallet!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mexico City Plants Green Roofs to Fight Pollution

Mexico City is one of the most air polluted capitals in the world, if not the most polluted in city in North America. Much of its pollution is caused by the tens of thousands of cars that flood the streets each day. The volume of exhaust, whether CO2, carbon monoxide, or just plain soot, fouls the air. $20 Off AeroGardens

According to Reuters, as found on

"The smog-choked metropolis plans to replace gas tanks, clothes lines and heat-reflecting asphalt on 100,000 square feet (9,300 square metres) of publicly owned roof space each year with grass and bushes that will absorb carbon dioxide."

The other benefits, as found in the Chicago experiments with green roofs are by planting green roofs, the urban heat island effect is reduced, as well as fine particulate pollution. Additionally, storm water runoff is reduced, as the green roof absorbs and retains much of the rain. Water Barrels and Storage

Green roofs offer Mexico City an economic way of improving their air quality, water quality, and quality of life for its citizens and visitors. Green roofs may be more expensive than traditional roofs, but are definitely cheaper than the most modern pollution-reducing devices used in modern, Western factories.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Green Roofs in the UK
Green Roofs aren't just an interesting topic in the US, they are also found in Europe. is an organization based in the UK that is leading the charge in promoting green roofs. Their site makes an excellent point:

"In the UK, the increased pressures on urban land and increased density levels are likely to have adverse impacts on drainage, water abstraction, biodiversity, accessible green space, and local climate conditions."

This statement is strongly applicable to cities such as Beijing, Mexico City, and others that suffer from choking air pollution and difficulty managing storm-water runoff. Storm water runoff is a major pollutant to drinking water sources. Green roofs can capture that rain and filter it through the soil instead of dumping it into reservoirs and over-taxed water treatment plants.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Chicago is Using Green Roofs!

Chicago is using a grant for the US Environmental Protection Agency to study green roofs. A green roof has been planted on the City Hall building. According to the EPA:

Projected total direct electricity savings were 9,272 kilowatt-hours per year, and the corresponding savings in natural gas for heating were 7.372 therms per year. (This calculation compares the base case R-value, or thermal resistance value To definition provided on the glossary page , of 5.9 with the treated roof – garden and insulation – R-value 21.2.)

Additionally, the article provides specific details as to the plant life as well as the construction methods and materials.

In major cities, such as Chicago and New York City, the city government imposes a tax on the amount of storm water runoff each building contributes.

Green roofs in these cities help reduce that tax by having the green roof system store and use the storm water.

Additionally, green roofs add to property values, as they reduce the heating and cooling costs, as well as providing additional aesthetic appeal.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

You Tube Green Roof HowTo

Before you begin building, always consult local authorities for permits, as well as engineers or architects to insure the existing roof can sustain the additional weight of the green roof. Also inquire about proper drainage.

Cleaner Air For Cities

The air quality of the world's largest cities is a tragedy. If you are among the many people who believe there has to be a cost-effective, sustainable, and relatively simple way to have cleaner air in cities, you have come to right place. People since the Babylonians have enjoyed both the aesthetic value and positive environmental qualities of green roofs. In the simplest terms, a green roof is a roof that has plant life on it. The plant life helps to cool structures, capture stormwater (reducing runoff), as well as reducing carbon dioxide from the air. Additionally, the plant life on the green roof can help remove particulate matter from the air.

In recent years, as fears of climate change have reached a fever pitch, many have looked to the cost-effective proposition of green roofs. This blog seeks to study and promote the concept of green roofs, as well as adding to the literature and science.