Chicago green roof summer 2004This post reports on a recent survey that indicates that the green roof sector in the US and Canada is enjoying excellent growth in spite of the very difficult economic environment that is prevailing in the building sector in general. The survey reports a growth of 28.5% and provides some background on what types of buildings and what cities are leading the adoption of green roofs.

by Chris de Morsella, Green Economy Post Chris is the co-editor of The Green Executive Recruiter Directory. Follow Chris on Twitter @greeneconpost

North America lags far behind countries such as Germany in the adoption of green roofs and green walls into our built spaces. Signs indicate however that we may be finally catching on to this important means of improving the urban environment in which most of us live. The 2011 Annual Green Roof Industry Survey by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), found that the green roof industry grew by 28.5% over the course of 2010, a significant increase over the 16% growth recorded in 2009.

Over 700 projects are listed in 2010, up from 423 in 2009, the result of both increasing industry growth as well as the fact that more companies participated in the survey this year, and there is a pretty even split between public and private green roof projects, with 294 identified as private and 279 are as public and the remainder unspecified.

Once again the epicenter of the green roof movement in North America remains Chicago, which installed more than 500,000 square feet of new green roofs, followed closely by Toronto Canada and Washington DC. Vancouver BC, New York City, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Norfolk and Milwaukee all added over 100,00 square feet.

Institutional buildings had the highest recorded square footage at 1,469,810 square feet added; followed by commercial buildings with 747,534 and multi unit residential with 336,321. The survey also reports that 3,108,599 square feet of new green roofs added were of extensive type; 312,298 square feet were of of semi-intensive/mixed; and 172,197 square feet were of intensive green roof type. It also notes that 748,300 square feet were not reported for this survey question.

“Chicago is proud of our progress in promoting and installing green roofs especially considering the many benefits they provide in support of the Chicago Climate Action Plan. They include: stormwater capture, building insulation, local heat island reduction and new green space for people and wildlife. Green roofs are just a part of Chicago’s support of green infrastructure solutions to make cities more liveable and vibrant through sustainable design and innovative programs,” said Commissioner Suzanne Malec-McKenna of the Chicago Department of Environment.

“It’s very gratifying to see the District at #2 nationwide, but no surprise! The District government and our property owners, developers, and residents citywide have embraced green roof technology for its many benefits. And we are really just getting started! I expect green roofs will play an increasingly important role as we improve stormwater management to clean and protect the District’s rivers and streams, ” said Christophe A.G. Tulou, Director of the Washington District Department of the Environment Department.

“As the green roof and wall industry develops further we will see costs come down and benefits to building owners rise, through the application of integrated design practices that turn wasted roof and wall spaces into value added urban farms, habitat, recreational spaces, horticultural therapy centers, energy conservation, green energy production, and stormwater management infrastructure, ” said Jeffrey L. Bruce, Chair, GRHC. “The industry is also benefitting from the more than 425 accredited Green Roof Professionals (GRPs) in the market. We are committed to driving future industry growth through professional development with new courses in Advanced Maintenance, Green Wall Design, Integrated Site and Building Water Management, and Rooftop Urban Agriculture which are available in Washington April 12 and soon to be on-line in the Living Architecture Academy.”

One note on the survey itself: Green Roofs for Healthy Cities conducts an Annual Industry Survey of their members to identify the square footage of green roofs installed each year, in each region of the US and Canada. The survey is conducted by an independent, third party consultant. The survey understates the size of the market since it is not completed by all of the companies that are actively designing and building green roofs.

This growth in difficult economic times of green roofs in North America is positive for our built spaces and urban environment and will help maintain water quality, prevent storm runoff, combat the urban heat island effect and provide many quality of life benefits as well such as green space and urban wildlife habitat. But there is still a very long way to go. In Germany for comparison about 10,000,000 m² of new green roofs are constructed each year; that is around 200 times as much green roof added as Chicago (North America’s leading city in this sustainable urban practice).

There is a lot of potential for growth in green roofs on this side of the pond. Their widespread adoption could bring many benefits to US and Canadian cities, including water quality, energy efficiency, energy consumption, and beautifying our cities in the process.

To read more on some of the trends that are shaping green building in the US read our related post “The Top 20 Green Building Trends for 2011“.

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© 2011, Chris de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Chris de Morsella (146 Articles)

After a decade performing as a lead guitarist for rock bands, Chris de Morsella decided to return to the career his uncle mentored him in as a youth....Software Engineering. Since that time he has thrown himself into his work. He has designed a compound document publishing architecture for regulatory submissions capable of handling very large multi-document FDA regulatory drug approval submissions, for Liquent, a division of Thompson Publishing. At the Associated Press, Chris worked with senior editors at facilities around the world, to develop a solution for replacing existing editorial systems with an integrated international content management solution. He lead the design effort at Microsoft for a help system for mobile devices designed to provide contextual help for users. Chris also helped to develop the web assisted installer for LifeCam2.0, the software for Microsoft’s web cam and developed late breaking features for the product He also served with the Rhapsody client team to redesign and build a major new release of Real Networks Rhapsody client product. His most recent assignment has been Working with the Outlook Mobile Time Management team for the next release of Outlook Mobile for the SmartPhone. Chris' interests are in green building and architecture, smart grid, the cloud, geo-thermal energy, solar energy, smart growth, organic farming and permaculture. Follow Chris on Twitter.