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Businesses Turn to Living Roofs for Profit, Energy Savings

chicagobotanicgardenAs interest in green buildings continues to grow, roofing companies, hurt by the recession, are looking at sustainable practices such as green roofs as a way to grow their businesses, reports the News & Observer.

As an example, Baker Roofing, in Raleigh, N.C., is launching a sustainable practices division to take advantage of increased demand for advanced roofing designs, particularly for government and military construction contracts, reports the News & Observer. The new business will focus on garden roofs, reflective roofs and roofs outfitted with renewable energy resources such as solar power.

John Matthews, executive vice president of Baker Roofing, told the News & Observer that those in the roofing business with government contracts and not looking at garden roofing and renewable energy will be left behind.

Numerous studies have cited benefits of sustainable roofs including the reduction of energy costs by up to 20 percent, and the reduction in storm-water runoff by up to 80 percent, according to the News & Observer.

But roofing lags behind in tax credits and other financial incentives. Donna Stankus, green building programs manager at the N.C. Solar Center in Raleigh, told the Observer that North Carolina doesn’t offer financial incentives specifically for roofing but roofing designs, integrated with energy-efficient building construction, could be used to qualify for a federal tax credit.

Steven Peck, president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, said in the article that cities offering incentives for green roofing include Toronto, Chicago, Portland, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, but others are expected to follow.

For example, starting in 2008, building owners in New York City who install green rooftops on at least 50 percent of available rooftop space can apply for a one-year property tax credit of up to $100,000.

Silvercup Studios in Long Island City, Queens, was one of the earliest green rooftop conversions in 2005, thanks to an initial grant of $500,000 from Clean Air Communications and investment from the studio, reports Crain’s New York. Covering 35,000 square feet, it’s the largest in the city, and includes a variety of sedums and other drought-resistant plants that require low maintenance and can survive New York’s harsh winters, according to the article.

To help businesses as well as home gardeners improve plant selection for their green roofs, the Chicago Botanic Garden has installed a new 16,000 square-foot-rooftop evaluation garden, where the goal is to expand the selection of plants that can be grown on green roofs, reports Chicago Now.

The botanical garden highlights plants that naturally grow in harsh environments– low rain fall, shallow soil depth, hot and dry conditions — for the trial gardens, according to the article. The researchers plan to share results of the evaluations through papers.

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