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

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