Green Roofs are Soaring: Part I

You’ve maximized your building’s energy efficiency. Retrofitted the lighting. Upgraded HVAC. Switched to green cleaning products. Have a top-notch recycling program. You’re good. You’re green. Nope.

As New Yorkers, we are disinclined to look up, but if you want to be part of the next, great green building revolution, look to your roof.

Green roofs are gorgeous living architecture – visible, beautiful, usable and valuable to tenants and building owners, as well as migratory wildlife. With the exception of going solar, greening a property’s roof may well be the last, grand, green frontier, and New York City building owners are embracing its worth.

‘Developers and architects see the value in rooftop spaces and terraces planted with beautiful, functional gardens,” says Howard K. Freilich, president and CEO of Blondie’s Treehouse. “We are seeing a steady stream of new projects in Brooklyn and throughout New York, with a real focus on native plantings.” Freilich should know. His Manhattan-based firm is one of the largest horticultural firms in the U.S. known for innovative designs and excellent customer care.

The benefits of green roofs are numerous and quite compelling. The U.S. Department of Environmental Protection (EPA) has in-depth information on how green roofs reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect. New York City is a vast summertime heat island with a negative impact on energy, water and health. Vegetative roofs act as building insulators, reducing energy usage and the extent and cost of air conditioning and heat as well as reduce air pollution and greenhouse gasses. According to the EPA, “On hot summer days, the surface temperature of a green roof can be cooler than the air temperature, whereas the surface of a conventional rooftop can be up to 90 degrees warmer.”

Then there’s stormwater management, no small issue in New York City. Green roofs help control runoff as vegetation absorbs water that, as runoff, contains a high amount of pollution and contaminants. With so much of the City’s surfaces impervious, runoff can cause sewer overflow which empties into the city’s waterways.

Green roofs can also extend roof life, reduce AC and heating costs, serve as a stormwater management tool and fire retardant, reduce noise, contribute to air quality and greatly enhance a property’s marketability and value by providing viewable or useable garden and recreational space. They can also be used for sustainability points for certifications and give an owner bragging rights on their building’s green profile.

In Part II, we’ll explore some of the challenges of building a green roof and some of the City’s prominent buildings which are already featuring – and championing – green roofs.

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

NYC Great White Sharks: Sharp Teeth and a Lot of Attitude

Recently, the Discovery Channel went fearlessly into its annual Shark Week. This year’s line-up included a one hour show: “Sharks and The City: New York”, narrated by none other than Chris Noth, Mr. Big from Sex and the City. There was also a special appearance by singer Seal who becomes a shark snack. (You can’t make these things up.)

Levity and puns aside, there is real scientific news which is also great environmental news about great white sharks returning to New York City waters. Are they here yet? No, at least not in the harbor. But there is hope as well as belief that they will be. The signs are all there.

Forget “Jaws”, the seminal movie that scared the hell out of an entire generation. The return of great white sharks to our area after more than three centuries is great news. It means cleaner water and that ecological balance is once more being achieved.

We understand that that the thought of swimming with sharks evokes a primordial fear. But great whites get a bad rap. For one thing, they are far from the vicious, man-eating killers people think they are. Yes, they’re predators but most people survive being bitten by a great white, which probably happened because they mistook a human for their natural prey. True, their size can inflict great damage with only one big “test” bite from 300 or so sharp teeth. But, they are far from being as aggressive as bull and tiger sharks. Overall, a person is much more likely to die from a wasp or bee bite or being struck by lightning than from a shark attack.

Great whites are naturally curious. If they see something, they taste it to see if it’s to their liking. Great white bites of boats, buoys and surfboards attest to the one bite and nope, not tasty, conclusion. Humans fall into that category. To a great white, we are way too bony, unlike their favorite prey – plump seals with a thick layer of fat.

Which brings us to more good news in the ecological circle. Where there are seals, great white sharks are usually not far behind. Ravaged by hunting, pollution and habitat changes, for the first time in over 200 hundred years, harbor seals are back in New York. They are primarily congregating on rocky, man-made Swinburne Island off the coast of Brooklyn, near the Verrazano Bridge.

For now, no great whites have been tracked to New York harbor. Marine biologist Craig O’ Connell has been tracking and tagging sharks around New York’s waters for a decade. He has found a shark nursery of 9 tagged juveniles out at Montauk. And let’s not forget the famous great white, Mary Lee (who has her own faithful following and Twitter page) who has been known to enjoy summering around the Jersey Shore and East Hampton.

Time will tell whether great whites will become abundant in New York City’s waters. It they do, it will be good news as the sharks are important to the ocean’s ecology. The exception would be the re-appearance of the megalodon (you saw an approximation of this huge species in Jurassic World) which would make great whites run for cover. (And, yes, you’d need a bigger boat.)

We’d be remiss not to at least reference “Sharknado 2: The Second One’ because it takes place in New York City. As our hero Fin Shepherd says, “I know you’re scared. I’m scared too. They’re sharks. They’re scary…I’m here to tell you it takes a lot more to bring a good man down. A lot more than that to bring a New Yorker down.”

Yep. You can’t make these things up.

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services