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Green Roofs For Money & Veggies

Reporter: Jennifer Fernicola, Chicago, IL
True Nature Foods Paula Companio,
Owner Sabine Rauch,
Intern 6034 North Broadway Chicago,
IL 60660  (773) 465-6400

Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Brooklyn, and Washington DC are leading the Green Roof way.  A Green Roof is a roof that is partially or completely covered with vegetation that has been planted over a waterproof layer.  Sod roofs have been around for centuries, but modern day green roofs are made from manufactured layers that are placed over roofs.  Why would anyone put a garden on their roof?  These green roofs help reduce your heating and cooling bills significantly, as well as provide a place where you can grow flowers and vegetables.  You are also extending the life of your roof by protecting it from the sun and elements.  In addition, a green roof helps provide a sound barrier.
Studies vary as to the exact amount of savings a green roof can provide as there are several different types of green roofs.  What we found was that green roofs can result in a 25% reduction in cooling needs, and a 26% reduction in heat losses.  Others study show that your total energy savings can be between 25-34%.   This could save a homeowner $1,000 a year in utility bills!  I read where the Fairmount Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver used their green roof to grow herbs, flowers and vegetables, saving the restaurant $30,000 a year.  Well if a restaurant can save that much money, think about how your grocery bill will be lowered during the summer when you can just go up on your roof for fresh lettuce, rosemary, and daisies.
Building owners in New York City who install green rooftops can now receive a tax credit of up to $100,000 under a bill (A.11226) sponsored by Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr.  The law states that building owners in New York City who install green roofs on at least 50 percent of available rooftop space can apply for a one-year property tax credit of up to $100,000. The credit would be equal to $4.50 per square-foot of roof area that is planted with vegetation, or approximately 25 percent of the typical costs associated with the materials, labor, installation and design of the green roof.  For more information go to Storm Water Infrastructure Matters at   To go along with this incentive City Tech’s Division of Continuing Educations offered an Introduction To Green Roofs And Living Walls course.  Philadelphia has a similar tax credit for businesses.  You can find information on the Philadelphia tax credit at and the form to apply for the tax credit for Philadelphia at
Some colleges even offer training that is city, county, or state incentive specific.  For example Portland Community College in Oregon offered a class called “Introduction to Residential Greenroofing,” as the
city is offering a grant to subsidize up to $5 per square foot on the new ecoroofs (http://www.
)  For more information on Portland’s Ecoroof Grant go to  Contact your nearest Community College to see what course in Green Roofs or even any Green type of training they may be offering.  This is a hot new expanding field, so new courses are being designed every day!
The District of Columbia offers a subsidy program for those interested in building a green roof, and they are even considering a subsidy for a retrofit green roof for larger buildings. At this time the subsidy is being revised, but if you are interested in learning more about the program and how to apply contact

D.C. Greenworks,
1341 H St NE. Suite 203,
Washington, D.C. 20002;
Fax: 202.518.6115;
Information will also be posted on the District Department on the Environment of the District of Columbia website at
Even the Federal government is getting into the act.  The General Services Administration has issued a directive stating that all new buildings or renovations must achieve a LEED silver rating
( ).

Green Roofs would provide two points toward that rating.  There is a Federal Technology Alert titled Green Roofs ( ) which describes what green roofs are, how to determine if they are a good fit for your project, provides information on products and warranties, as well as cost-benefit analysis of green roofs
According to the Alert benefits of green roofs include:
  • Shading the roof and cooling ambient air temperatures in summer.
  • Shielding the roof from wind and preventing heat transfer in winter.
  • Absorbing, retaining, filtering, and storing precipitation.
  • Reducing the temperature of runoff.
  • Extending the lifetime of roofing membranes.
  • Increasing the area’s green space and wildlife habitat.
  • Enhancing the aesthetic of cityscapes.
  • Improving air quality.
  • Sequestering carbon dioxide.
  • Reducing traffic noise through absorption by the soil layer.
  • Ballasting the roofing membrane.
  • Mitigating floods in certain regions.
  • Reducing runoff and the need to expand the urban storm water infrastructure’s capacity.
You can contact several organizations to learn more: