Green roofs make City more beautiful, experts say

Industries are on the look out for more green initiatives

  • Jun. 4, 2014 3:34 p.m.

More and more industries are looking for green initiatives to implement in their companies, and a big trend right now is something called ‘green roofs’.

What green roofs entail are carefully designed landscapes that can utilize streams, ponds, reclaimed wood and carefully chosen plant species to create beautiful spaces on industry roofs.

“We’re not just thinking about the humans that enjoy the spaces, we’re considering the wildlife as well,” said green roof professional Cynthia Pohl, who also owns and leads designs at Living Landscape Design.

“We really focus on using indigenous plant materials, as well as some other plant materials. What we try to do is create beautiful spaces for all beings.”

Pohl’s business uses all organic growing methods, sustainable habitats and maintains focus on indigenous species.

“Worldwide, it’s a big industry and is growing all the time. In Alberta, it’s just not.”

The nature behind green roofing is to create spaces on top of commercial developments to reduce the amount of habitat lost during construction. The roofs can be carefully designed to attract birds, pollinator animals and bugs. Together, these animals work and create an ecosystem on the roofs.

In Red Deer, the most technical and prosperous green roof is located on top of the Berry Architecture and Associates building on 50th Ave. The roof is in its second year of blooming and the plants have taken to the environment very well.

“We’re really happy to say that so far, what we’ve done here, using 95 per cent indigenous species for the heartland and prairies ecosystems, and almost all of the species are thriving and are starting to attract indigenous pollinators,” said Pohl.

“That’s exactly what we want to have happen. It bodes very well for the potential of green roofs in Alberta.”

Pohl added what the industry really requires to take off in Alberta is for cities to develop policies that encourage owners to invest in green initiatives, such as green roofs.

“We can really look to the city of Toronto. Worldwide, Toronto is very well respected for the policies they have with regards to building green roof incentives,” she said.

City councillors have a large role to play in encouraging businesses to develop green roofs. They can suggest things like tax incentives or other initiatives to make green roofing an accessible, easy choice.

The trouble with green roofs is that the buildings need to be engineered to hold the weight of the designs, have a controlled system for water run-off and storage and require big bucks up front to construct, experts say.

However, the benefits of green roofs are many. They store carbon, for starters. The foliage of the plant life pulls in carbon dioxide and produces oxygen. If green roofing becomes more common when designing commercial buildings, this can significantly reduce air emissions in large cities.

Green roofs also help mitigate storm water, which could be a major Alberta incentive. Most green roofs have a minimum of 6” of substrate that can soak up excess storm water. Some places use tanks to collect excess water, which can be recycled for use in toilets, putting to use the natural rainwater.

“Green roofs are really being used a lot because of dramatic climate events. That’s a strong component for the use of green roofs,” said Pohl.

According to Pohl, having the growing medium and substrate also extends the lifespan of a roof by up to four times, due to the lack of UV degradation on the liner.

The last major benefit of green roofing is being revealed more and more through studies of satisfaction and workplace enjoyment in those buildings that offer a ‘rooftop oasis’ for their employees. The employees enjoy the freedom and space that a green roof gives. The roofs are like small, private parks to enjoy atop the bustle of main roads.

Green roofing can also be a touchy subject due to the costs associated with green projects. Awareness of the benefits and long-term implications could potentially help create city-wide policies to promote the habitat roofs, she said.

Dusty Gedge, a green roof professional, told Pohl that the roof on Berry Architecture was one of the best he’d seen with regards to genuinely re-creating habitat for the potential for wildlife existence.

“Why not, at the same time you’re creating a beautiful space for yourself, think about what other species you can create a space for. Just like we enjoy blooms, other species enjoy them too,” said Pohl.