Green is the New Black: Why Green Roofs are on the Rise

In 2016, over 4 million square feet of green roof area was constructed in North America according to the 2016 Green Roof Industry Survey conducted by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. This is an over 10 percent gain from 2015. The top three cities in green roof construction were Toronto, Chicago, and Washington DC, collectively raising the green roof bar by over 1.5 million square feet. What makes these cities stand apart from the rest? These cities give policy support to the industry with mandates and strong incentive programs.

Metropolitan areas with local green roof mandates and incentive programs are proving that these policies not only work but also are boasting big successes. The 889 green roof projects recorded in the 2016 survey are estimated to bring over 1,500 full-time construction jobs and retain over 45 million gallons of storm water per year. They also encourage smarter development practices, since green roofs can last up to twice as long as a traditional black top or white top roof. Let take a glance at the top three green roof cities in North America.

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto is the first city in North America to mandate and govern the construction of green roofs. The bylaw and eco-roof incentive program has been in place since 2009, giving other cities across the globe a great roadmap to implement similar policies in their local governments. Toronto is the gold standard in green roofs, constructing over 650,000 square feet of green roofs in 2015 alone. 

Two years after the bylaw passed, there was more than 125 full time jobs created and the city saw an annual storm water reduction of 435,000 cubic feet. Building owners saw energy savings of 1.5 million KWH, and being able to see a green roof from your building increased its property value by 11%.

Chicago, Illinois

Practically tripping at Toronto's heels is the Windy City of Chicago. Thanks to their Green Permit Program and Green Roof Initiative, the metropolitan area of Chicago boasts over 500 green roofs. The programs gives building projects with green elements such as green roofs and solar energy an expedited permit process, and in many cases a reduction in permit fees. You can even see an interactive map of green roofs throughout the city here.

One of Chicago's most famous green roofs is Millennium Park, constructed on an exposed railroad yard and atop a parking garage. This project brought $2.45 billion in new condos, hotels and office construction to the area and increased Chicago’s tax base. It attracts 5 million visitors a year, and developer John Buck said the development team “knew it would be good. But they had no idea it would be so good.”

District of Columbia, United States

With over 3 million square feet of green roofs, the United States capital is a notable success story. The district has two programs: one is green roofs built under the mandatory storm water regulations, and another is voluntarily through the highly successful RiverSmart Rooftops Green Roof Rebate Program. The RiverSmart program can save homeowners up to 55 percent on their storm water fee and 4 percent on their Clean Rivers charge.

There are many more opportunities to encourage the retrofitting of existing roofs as well. The green roof industry is gaining headway, creating a substantial amount of green jobs, improving public health, and giving cities more beautiful open spaces that citizens can enjoy. These cities are just the icing on the cake.

Green Roof Industry Survey 2016 Executive Summary

City of Toronto Green Roofs

Chapter 492 - City of Toronto

What Cities Can Learn From Toronto's Green Roof PolicyThe Benefits of Green Infrastructure: Waterfront Green Roofs are Beautiful and Functional

City of Chicago Green Permit Program

Millennium Park: 10 years old and an economic boon - Chicago Tribune

Washington D.C. Green Roofs

How green roofs can save you lots of green