Leaf Litter

Non-Profit Spotlight

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities North America is quickly becoming the industry association for green roofs, living walls and other forms of living architecture. Learn how they can help you.

By Amy Nelson

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Maintaining momentum for green roofs and living walls involves continuing research, translating the research into practice and sharing information with interested parties. We are delighted to shine Leaf Litter’s first official Non-Profit Spotlight on Green Roofs for Healthy Cities – North America, Inc. (GRHC) for their role in both researching and sharing information about green roofs. Founded in 1999 and growing rapidly, this 501(c)(6), not-for-profit organization has become the industry association for green roof experts in North America. GRHC’s mission is to increase the awareness of the economic, social and environmental benefits of green roofs, green walls, and other forms of living architecture through education, advocacy, professionalism and celebrations of excellence.

Steven W. Peck, the organization’s founder and president, articulated some of the many public and private benefits of green roofs and walls, including stormwater management, reducing urban heat islands and air pollution, and improving livability. Because of these benefits, he said, “many jurisdictions are investing in green roof installation, through a variety of measures such as grants, tax abatements, density bonusing, through direct procurement for their buildings and through the use of regulations. Leaders in this field include Chicago, New York City, Washington, DC, Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia and Toronto, to name a few.”

Can Any Roof Be A Green Roof?

Despite the many benefits of green roofs, Peck noted that some locations are better suited than others for installation. He explained that structural loadings, slope, and size of a project all play a role in determining the suitability of a green roof. “Green roofs are not effective on existing buildings with excess structural loading less than 10 lbs. per square foot. This number rises in areas of extreme cold and wind desiccation and extreme drought. Green roofs are not good for buildings with more than a 40% roof slope. Green roofs may be cost prohibitive on smaller projects, like single family dwellings, because the upfront costs may be too great, relative to a project’s overall size.” Peck also added that despite how they are sometimes promoted, green roofs are not a ‘do-it-yourself’ technology; there are important engineering and health and safety considerations.

“Green roofs are a fantastic way to expand the amount of useable space on a building,” stressed Peck, “and they can deliver a wide range of benefits if they are incorporated into a new building design early on.” For those interested in examples of effective green roofs, Peck recommended “Award Winning Green Roof Designs” published by Schiffer Publishing. The book features over 40 award-winning green roof projects identified by GRHC over the past five years. “There are so many different applications of green roofs,” said Peck. “[Green roofs] are a very versatile technology that allow designers to maximize for a variety of benefits including: energy efficiency, solar energy efficiency improvement, stormwater management, biodiversity, food production, aesthetics, horticultural therapy, active and passive recreation, noise reduction and a host of other benefits.”

Green Roof Training & Accreditation

GRHC delivers professional training courses throughout North America and is now implementing an accredited Green Roof Professional program to help support quality green roof design and construction practices. The program will also allow practitioners to differentiate themselves in the marketplace by demonstrating that they have passed a multi-disciplinary exam, developed by subject matter experts, covering key information on best practices from design, installation through to maintenance. “Eventually,” said Peck, ‘we hope to provide GRPs with a break on their insurance premiums and an advantage on bidding on government projects. Governments will see the GRP as a method of overall quality assurance.”

Four one-day professional training courses are being provided in different locations around North America in support of the Green Roof Professional Designation. They average about $350 per course and include a resource manual. The Green Roof Professional exam is based on material in these courses. The cost of the exam, which is to be proctored by Prometric is $395.00. Alternatively, people can purchase the manuals directly from “GreenInfrastructureStore.com,” study them intently and take the exam. The material for the GRP accreditation is based on six years of work with over 100 subject matter experts ranging from structural engineers to horticulturalist and irrigation specialists.

The GRP exam is being launched in Atlanta, Georgia on June 5, at the end of GRHC’s 7th Annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards and Trade Show. The conference also includes a half day course on Ecological Green Roof Design. According to Peck, “a number of papers on biodiversity will be presented in Atlanta from June 3-5, 2009.”

If attending the conference is not a possibility, GRCH’s Green Roof Tree of Knowledge is an excellent resource. It contains summaries of research projects, including a number on designing for biodiversity. “The field of urban biodiversity is very promising,” said Peck, “but still at a very early stage in its development.” Leaf Litter looks forward to keeping in touch with GRHC for this and other exciting green roof developments.

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